Science of Innovation: synthetic diamonds

You’re celebrating a romantic little restaurant or some other special place. Your significant other presents you with a small velvet box containing a huge diamond ring or flawless diamond cuff links. Would you like the sparkling gems any less if you knew they came from a lab and not a diamond mine?

This installment of the “Science of Innovation” video series—Synthetic Diamonds—describes an innovative process that might just be the beginning of that dazzling rock on your finger—no mining, no waiting millions of years. Synthetic diamonds (no, not cubic zirconia, but real, 100 percent diamond) are in your immediate future.

Synthesize your STEM efforts with this and other videos in the “Science of Innovation” series from the collaborative team of NBC Learn, United States Patent & Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation, and NSTA. One of the reasons the USPTO got involved in this effort to begin with was to show how the principles of intellectual property and innovation can help further motivate and engage your students in authentic STEM experiences. By learning how people invent new things and applying the creative design and engineering process in your classroom, students begin to understand the essence of the fields of science and engineering. The series is available cost-free on www.NBCLearn.com, www.science360.gov, and www.uspto.gov/education. Take a look, and then let us know what you think!

–Judy Elgin Jensen

Image of the largest model of diamond in the world created as a Summer Exhibition for the Royal Society of Chemistry. It contains 31,395 crystal clear balls representing the carbon atoms. A real diamond containing 31,395 atoms would be less than one billionth of a carat, invisible to the eye, and worth less than a penny. Courtesy of Bruce Stokes.

Video

SOI: Synthetic Diamonds highlights the research and innovation related to the production of synthetic diamonds.

Lesson plans

Two versions of the lesson plans help students build background and develop questions they can explore how the physical properties of diamonds, both synthetic and natural, make them useful not only as jewelry, but also as industrial abrasives and engraving tools, in medicine to deliver cancer-fighting drugs to affected parts of the body and to cover openings in X-ray chambers and other types of imagining devices, in high-end audio equipment, and as semiconductor coatings for computer chips, among many other uses. Both include strategies to support students in their own quest for answers and strategies for a more focused approach that helps all students participate in hands-on inquiry.

SOI: Synthetic Diamonds, A Science Perspective models how students might investigate a question using media resources.

SOI: Synthetic Diamonds, An Engineering Perspective shows how students might investigate structure and its relationship to strength.

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