You know what I like best about chemistry? That you learn something new every single day, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. In between meetings yesterday, I decided to kill off a couple of minutes by clicking around on Wikipedia, and stumbled on something that was totally new to me: The synthesis of nanodiamonds (link below).


In summary, if you detonate a mixture of TNT and RDX, two of the most common military high-explosives, in a closed chamber with sufficient cooling and as little air/oxygen in there as possible, along with the detonation front (we’re talking >6000 m/s here) is formed a soot that contains a fair amount of nanodiamonds, which in turn is surprisingly well-defined (uniform particle size around 5 nm). To separate out the nanodiamonds, you boil the soot in concentrated acid in an autoclave for several days. The above-boiling point acid will eventually dissolve everything (metals, other organic compounds, other carbon allotropes) except the nanodiamonds. The isolated yield can be pushed up to around 90% and the purity is excellent. Dang!

The Russians were first and discovered this in the early ’60s. Nanodiamonds are at the time of writing examined in Japan as carriers for otherwise low-permeable chemotherapy APIs. Wow…

Now, if you wanna totally blow my socks off – tell me you already knew!


6 Responses to Synthesis of nanodiamonds

  1. milkshake says:

    A friend is working for a little company doing surface covalent functionalization of nanodiamonds (the oxidative treatment creates carboxyl functionalities on the surface, which can be turned into acyl chlorides, etc). The starting nanodiamonds are quite cheap – few USD per gram in bulk. Usually the powder is ochre or brownish-colored due to traces of nitrogen in the structure of the nanodiamonds

  2. drfreddy says:

    Highly interesting. For advanced material or medical applications?

    • milkshake says:

      I think they are doing both, they definitely had some government grants for biomedical stuff. Last time I spoke with him, my friend mentioned he was working on several projects at the same time.

  3. Simon Sahlberg says:

    You haven’t been catching up on Mythbusters, this is well known among its audience.

  4. claude boehmer says:

    Hello, Sir
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