Structures in Nature

THE DIAMOND CRYSTAL

Precious, shiny, much sought after, and oh so expensive diamond! But have you ever wondered what this precious gemstone is made of?

1. Diamond crystals GIF, The Makers Collaborative

It is the humble carbon atom arranged in a cubic structure.

             2. 3D model of tetrahedral carbon structure, The Makers Collaborative
A diamond crystal is made up of carbon atoms arranged at the vertices of a tetrahedron* attached to an atom at the centroid. It is this beauty of design that gives a diamond structure its compressive strength and hardness.
Diamond is a face centred cubic  Bravais lattice* (as seen in our 3D model – fig. 2). Lattice describes the repeat pattern (Fig. 3).

3. From a single carbon atom to a unit cell to a lattice. Courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Visualisation_diamond_cubic.svg

Interesting bit about diamonds:
It is the hardest material known to man as it is also used in industrial processes like in drilling and as an abrasive. But it is also brittle. If it falls, it may chip. So if you are wearing a diamond ring, be careful not to drop it!


*Tetrahedron – A tetrahedron is one of the 5 Platonic solids. It has 4 faces, all triangles. These are regular solids with the same faces, edges and number of vertices. (See 3D model below)
Platonic solids are found in nature in various crystals, solids and these are used in architecture, building and ornamentation purposes.

A stick model of a tetrahedron, The Makers Collaborative

*Bravais lattice – Named after Auguste Bravais, this is a distinct 3 dimensional configuration of points, which when repeated fills up the whole space.


 

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