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January 11, 2017
Sure, they're the ultimate symbol of love, but diamonds also have become the darling of the scientific community. We're starting to wonder: Is there anything a diamond can't do?
Back in November, we reported how imperfect diamonds could hold the key to the future of long-term, high-density data storage. Then, in December, we reviewed how a diamond battery made from nuclear waste could generate power for more than 5,000 years.
Now, we've learned how lab-grown red diamonds could replace GPS systems and help make driverless cars a reality. Wow.
A team at Element Six, a tech company based in Oxfordshire, England, report that red diamonds have a remarkable sensitivity to magnetic waves due to a "nitrogen vacancy defect" in their atomic lattice. Amazingly, these diamonds can currently detect a passing car at 300 meters away.
The scientists are suggesting that the diamonds could be programmed to pinpoint their own location on the earth by reading the magnetic waves from the sun. The new method of determining geolocation could render GPS satellites obsolete and make way for the future of driverless vehicles.
“If you have a device that is capable of sensing the surrounding magnetic fields, it also knows where it is,” noted principal research scientist Richard Bodkin. “So once you can harness all of those technologies into a single device, there is no reason why driverless cars can’t be realized.”
While the possibilities are fascinating, Element Six scientists said that diamond-guided geotracking could be decades away.
Incidentally, Element Six's primary business is developing diamond-infused cutting tools for heavy industry. The firm is principally owned by diamond mining giant De Beers.
Credit: DeYoung Red Diamond photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian. Satellite rendering via GPS.gov.