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UK ‘sky mining’ facility creates carbon-negative diamonds

Image credit: Pixabay

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince has led a project to create diamonds from carbon extracted from the atmosphere, making them the world’s first carbon-negative diamonds.

Environmentalist and industrialist Dale Vince led the 'Sky Diamond' project in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He was inspired to begin the project while researching ways to remove and store atmospheric carbon.

The diamonds are created entirely from materials harvested from the atmosphere, in a process that takes around two weeks to complete. A 'sky mining' facility extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is then liquified, purified and mixed with hydrogen split from molecules of rainwater to make methane. This is inserted into a diamond mill, where the diamonds are grown in balls of plasma at around 8,000°C via chemical vapour deposition.

The entire process is powered with wind and solar energy.

The technique took more than five years to perfect. The result is a diamond physically and chemically indistinguishable from mined diamonds, and certified by the International Gemological Institute.

“The entire ingredient list comes from the sky, and it’s not just low or zero-carbon, it’s actually negative carbon in that respect, because we’re locking up atmospheric carbon into a very permanent form of carbon: the diamond,” Vince told PA. “We no longer need to dig these enormous holes in the ground – they’re visible from space, some of them. We don’t need to do that to get diamonds, we can just make them from the sky in an entirely benign process.”

“We see this as 21st century technology, the exact kind of thing we need to be doing to fight the climate and other sustainability crises, but also enable us to carry on living the way that were used to living and want to live.”

Vince expects that the facility will be able to produce 200 carats of diamonds every month, although it could scale up to create 1,000 a month within a year. The diamonds will be available to pre-order for collaborations from early next year.

Traditional diamond mining is a strain on the environment: producing a one carat stone requires the shifting of around 1,000 tonnes of rock and earth, consumes almost 4,000 litres of water, and generates more than 100kg of carbon emissions.

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