Soot and diamonds

Alchemists have succeeded in fashioning the high-tech version of the Philosopher's Stone: they can now make diamond films out of soot and a gas named argon. Chemist Dieter M Gruen's magic recipe: flash light on a mixture of pure soot -- buckyballs, which contain 60 carbon atoms arranged in a hollow sphere -- and argon gas, and the liberated carbon atoms deposit and form a thin diamond film.

Dieter believes that the new technology can produce diamond films 2 to 4 times faster than conventional methods and at half the cost. Low production costs could make the use of these tough films -- mainly used in machine tools -- more common and affordable.

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