Scientists at the US's Argonne National Laboratory have found a cheap and quick method to produce diamond films by using soccer ball-shaped carbon molecules called fullerenes (Science, Vol 265, No 5172).
Diamond films are used in electronic circuits to remove heat and as a tough coating for machine tools. The conventional method takes up to 10 hours to manufacture a 10 micron thick film, while the new method takes about 2 1/2 hours and cuts costs to 1/4th.
In the new method, a silicon wafer containing flecks of diamond powder is placed in a vacuum chamber along with vaporised fullerenes and argon gas. Heated argon atoms smash the fullerenes into carbon-carbon pairs that then bind to the dispersed diamond nuclei, forming a single film.
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