Ever since laboratories managed to grow gem-quality specimens consistently and at scale, “synthetic” diamonds have steadily gained popularity with today’s jewelry buyers. In addition to being conflict-free and eco-friendly, the main advantage synthetic diamonds have over natural ones is cost. Now, a manufacturing company called Plasmability has patented a new production methodology that may drive down the price of synthetic diamonds even further.
Ordinarily, diamonds are grown using chemical vapor deposition (CVD). As part of the process, a tiny fragment of carbon is placed into a pressurized chamber filled with a carbon-heavy gas (usually argon, methane, hydrogen, or a mixture of the three). The gas mixture is heated to very high temperatures with microwave to produce a plasma. In its plasma state, the gas breaks down and its carbon atoms accumulate and crystallize onto the fragment of solid carbon, causing it to grow. Since the layers of diamond only form at a rate of <60 microns per hour, the process can take up to 10 weeks and requires lots of electricity.
Instead of microwave technology, Plasmability’s method uses an inductively powered toroidal radio frequency generator to heat the gas and create plasma. As a result, the conversion of electrical energy into heat energy improves in efficiency by about 35%. As a bonus, the toroidal radio wave technology is smaller and requires less maintenance compared with microwave generators. If laboratories invest in this technology, we could see further decreases in diamond prices within the next few years.