PM Modi gifts Jill Biden a lab-grown diamond: What is an LGD?

PM Modi gifts Jill Biden a lab-grown diamond: What is an LGD?

Context- The Bidens hosted PM Modi for a private dinner, where the Indian premier presented them with a number of gifts. The prime minister gifted the Bidens with an exquisite sandalwood box, a first edition print of the book The Ten Principal Upanishads from 1937, and a 7.5 carat lab-grown diamond.

The diamond, a gift for First Lady Jill Biden, was gifted in a papier mâché box.

(Credits- growndiamondcorp)

Lab-grown diamonds have become increasingly popular in recent years, and are considered to be more socially and environmentally responsible, while being nearly identical to mined diamonds.

What are lab-grown diamonds?

  • Lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds. They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LGDs are chemically, physically and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab-grown.”
  • While materials such as Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia (CZ), White Sapphire, YAG, etc. are “diamond simulants” that simply attempt to “look” like a diamond, they lack the sparkle and durability of a diamond and are thus easily identifiable. However, differentiating between an LGD and an Earth Mined Diamond is hard, with advanced equipment required for the purpose.

How are LGDs produced?

  • There are multiple ways in which LGDs can be produced. The most common (and cheapest) is the “High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method. As the name suggests, this method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius).
  • Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
  • Other processes include “Chemical Vapor Deposition” (CVD) and explosive formation that creates what are known as “detonation nanodiamonds”.
  • Any of these methods can be carried out using renewables or cleaner energy sources, making LGDs more eco friendly than traditional diamond mining. Furthermore, mined diamonds, the production of LGDs skips the most socially exploitative aspects of diamond manufacturing, namely the highly exploitative mining process which often employs impoverished Africans in terrible conditions.

What are the properties of LGDs?

  • LGDs have basic properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provide them the signature diamond sheen. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes.
  • For instance, LGDs are most often used for industrial purposes, in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters.
  • Furthermore, pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity. This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodes, laser arrays and high-power transistors.
  • Crucially, like natural diamonds, LGDs undergo similar processes of polishing and cutting that are required to provide diamonds their characteristic lustre. Thus, growth in the production of LGDs is unlikely to affect India’s established diamond industry which undertakes these tasks.

Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs

Source- Indian Express