For centuries diamonds have lured women up the aisle; in future they may drive them to work as engineers find a use for the precious stones in electric cars and other applications.

From ultra-durable drill bits to semiconductors and optical instruments, industry officials say the uses for diamonds are multiplying and advances in synthetic production have opened the floodgates to ever more innovative applications.

"Diamond as a material is like what steel was in the 1850s and what silicone was in the 1980s. There will be lots of uses for it in the next 50 years but there is not enough of it in the ground," said Bryant Linares, president and CEO of Massachusetts-based synthetic producer Apollo Diamond.

"We have the potential to make semiconductors which can be faster, and better, than any of the existing available semiconductors," said Linares' father Robert, chairman of the family-controlled business, speaking in a joint call to Reuters.

The durability of diamonds at high temperatures may revolutionize high-performance processors and could help make the electric car a reality for consumers around the world, he said.

"A lot of the problem with electric cars, power grids and even the computers of the future is dealing with the heat. The use of diamond rather than silicone can reduce the amount of circuitry by up to 80 percent," he said.

VAPOUR

One of the major advances in synthetic diamond technology is chemical vapour deposition (CVD), which forms diamonds through a chemical reaction between gases.

CVD can be manipulated to make particular shapes of diamond much more effectively than the older "high pressure, high temperature" (HPHT) method developed by General Electric in the mid-20th century which compresses carbon into diamond using molten metal as a catalyst.

That means wafer-thin layers of diamond can be produced for use in microprocessors, or thicker diamonds for other purposes.

The vast majority of diamond used in industrial processes around the world are synthetic. The Diamond Trading Company (DTC), the marketing arm of diamond giant De Beers, says some 200 tonnes of tiny synthetic diamonds, or grit, are used by industry each year -- several times total mined production... (Continued Here)

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