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!