Skip to comments.Diamond Oceans Possible on Uranus, Neptune
Posted on 01/17/2010 3:44:54 AM PST by LibWhacker
By melting and resolidifying diamond, scientists explain how such liquid diamond oceans may be possible.
Oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Physics.
The research, based on first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond, found diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, with solid forms floating atop liquid forms. The surprising revelation gives scientists a new understanding about diamonds and some of the most distant planets in our solar system.
"Diamond is a relatively common material on Earth, but its melting point has never been measured," said Eggert. "You can't just raise the temperature and have it melt, you have to also go to high pressures, which makes it very difficult to measure the temperature."
Other groups, notably scientists from Sandia National Laboratories, successfully melted diamond years ago, but they were unable to measure the pressure and temperature at which the diamond melted.
Diamond is an incredibly hard material. That alone makes it difficult to melt. But diamond has another quality that makes it even more difficult to measure its melting point. Diamond doesn't like to stay diamond when it gets hot. When diamond is heated to extreme temperatures it physically changes, from diamond to graphite.
The graphite, and not the diamond, then melts into a liquid. The trick for the scientists was to heat the diamond up while simultaneously stopping it from transforming into graphite.
Ultrahigh pressures, the kind of pressures found in huge gas giants like Neptune and Uranus are some of the places where ultrahigh temperatures and ultrahigh pressures exist. Eggert and his colleagues placed a small, natural, clear diamond, about a tenth of a carat by weight and half a millimeter thick, and blasted it with lasers at ultrahigh pressures.
The scientists liquefied the diamond at pressures 40 million times greater than what a person feels when standing at sea level on Earth. From there they slowly reduced the temperature and pressure.
When the pressure dropped to about 11 million times the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth and the temperature dropped to about 50,000 degrees solid chunks of diamond began to appear. The pressure kept dropping, but the temperature of the diamond remained the same, with more and more chunks of diamond forming.
Then the diamond did something unexpected. The chunks of diamond didn't sink. They floated. Microscopic diamond ice burgs floating in a tiny sea of liquid diamond. The diamond was behaving like water.
With most materials, the solid state is more dense than the liquid state. Water is an exception to that rule; when water freezes, the resulting ice is actually less dense than the surrounding water, which is why the ice floats and fish can survive a Minnesota winter.
An ocean of diamond could help explain the orientation of the planet's magnetic field as well, said Eggert. Roughly speaking, the Earth's magnetic poles match up with the geographic poles. The magnetic and geographic poles on Uranus and Neptune do not match up; in fact, they can be up to 60 degrees off of the north-south axis.
If Earth's magnetic field were that far off it would place the magnetic north pole in Texas instead off a Canadian Island. A swirling ocean of liquid diamond could be responsible for the discrepancy.
Up to 10 percent of Uranus and Neptune is estimated to be made from carbon. A huge ocean of liquid diamond in the right place could deflect or tilt the magnetic field out of alignment with the rotation of the planet.
The idea that there are oceans of liquid diamond inside Neptune and Uranus is not a new idea, said Tom Duffy, a planetary scientist at Princeton University. The new Nature Physics article makes diamond oceans "look more and more plausible," said Duffy. More research on the composition of Neptune and Uranus is needed before a truly definitive conclusion can be made, however, and this kind of research is very difficult to conduct.
Scientists can either send spacecraft to these planets, or they can try to simulate these conditions on Earth. Both options require years of preparation, expensive equipment, and are subject to some of the toughest environments in the universe.
Hence the term "ice" when referring to diamonds.
Since the Global Warming grants are drying up, or should I say freezing up, they are forced to come up with some imaginative new ways to justify government grants that are not so easliy disproven. Plus, this one has a promise at the end of the diamond rainbow that will repay all of the money they obtain for their next boondoggle. Why not just seek a government grant to prove the avionic capabilities of pigs to sustain non powered flight?
Honey, I would get you a diamond but do you realize how plentiful they are?
The next NASA project: Pulling diamonds out of Uranus.
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies...”
The first space ship is already booked solid with women.
Ha! That was good :)
Why would liquid diamond be anything but generic carbon? I thought that the quality of carbon being diamond was its crystalline structure.
I’ll say! I’m thinking diamond cycle, much like earth’s water cycle... Diamond oceans, it rains diamonds, and fish swim around in it.
I see. All science is guilty by association.
You sir are an anti-science bigot, and my guess is a young earth creationist.
Huh? "Scientist" were unable to give us precise temps and pressures? How is this possible?
I bet they also believe in global warming.
Mark to read later. I’ve gotta go make some diamonds!
One little problem with all this:
Neptune and Uranium are cold. So cold, ammonia and probably even methane form ices.
Play fair - just because global warming is BS doesn't mean all scientists are BS-ers.
Fire up the NASA budget.
It’s called parody, Sir! So when was the last time you made the trip to either planet to vouch for what they are saying? Am I a skeptic? Damned right I am!
Hypothsis are just that and your whole scientific community has been tarnished by those so-called “experts” who claimed that stupid term of “consensus” when closing the case on Global Warming, er Climate Change, er whatever it morphs into next.
There is no such thing as scientific consensus but simply scientific fact or hypothesis. So now we have “scientists” who fudge the facts to fit their narrow minded consensus, er hypothesis that has the potential to destroy our society if their pet social fixes are enacted by a tyranical, out of control government just to fill their pockets with even more government grants.
I marvel at real science, as a matter of fact my living depends on it. But I also recognize the realities of our capabilities in the same light because unlike some “believers” in the scientific community, sky hooks or muffler bearings don’t exist.
Good Day Sir!
Remember the formula for the temperature of a gas? As pressure goes up, temperature goes up. True, the upper atmosphere is very cold, but go down several thousand miles and it’s a different story.
“...but do you realize how plentiful they are?”
Even here on Earth they are plentiful - only tight control of the supply keeps them from becoming valueless, other than for industrial use...
Please! I didn't say "all". However, how can they not at least know the temp at which they supposedly melted a diamond? Or, at the very least give a close estimate?
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