Diamonds are pretty darn durable; we all know that. Besides being used for beautiful accessories across many different cultures, they’re often used for industrial purposes. They are, after all, the hardest material in the world.
So is there any substance that could potentially destroy them? Can they be crushed or melted for instance? Well, those are great questions, but we wondered about something a bit more specific – acid. Can acid dissolve diamonds? Can acid melt diamonds?
It’s a valid question. When we hear the word acid, we momentarily think of some incredibly strong liquid that will dissolve anything it touches! The reputation it has is probably equal to the one diamonds have, as far as durability goes. So who wins in this duel?
Well, it’s a clash of the titans, and we think that you’ll like the answers we found. It’s not just a clear-cut yes or no answer; let’s get that straight. Some serious science talk is necessary to figure this out.
So strap in, and let’s get this thing started!
Can Acid Dissolve Diamonds?
So what’s the straight answer here?
A simple laboratory test with some acid and a small diamond will tell us that diamonds can’t dissolve in acid. But it’s just a bit more complicated than that because you need to account for other possible conditions.
See, the chances of your diamonds dissolving in some acid at room temperature are almost nonexistent. No liquid can come close to the tightly-packed carbon atoms in the diamonds – at least not at room temperature.
See, we did some research, and we found something interesting. It turns out that there could be diamond oceans on some planets in our solar system. To be more precise, on Neptune and Uranus. So how the heck does that work? And why should you care? Give us a chance, it will make sense – we promise.
Well, scientists have been trying to find the melting point of diamonds for years now. They tried putting diamonds into every kind of condition they could think of. Well, at least in every condition that they could create on our planet.
That’s what we were talking about when we said that there is no liquid at room temperature that could manage to dissolve a diamond. Take some stomach acid, for instance, and put it into a stainless steel pressure tank at about 200-300 degrees Celsius (400-600 degrees Fahrenheit). You might manage to dissolve a tiny portion of your diamond.
But dissolving just a tiny bit is the best result you can hope for.
But if we switch planets just for the sake of the experiment, we would find different results. In order to get the carbon atoms within the diamond to budge, we have to expose it to pressure and amounts of heat that are much greater than the amounts that it took to make the stuff!
Now, if you know anything about diamonds, you know they form in some pretty darn extreme conditions. So scientists, at some point, tried blasting lasers at them. This did make a difference since part of the diamonds that were used did begin to liquify.
But the thing is that the diamonds only started liquefying at pressures that are 40 million times greater than the pressure that’s sound at Earth’s sea level.
On the other end of the scale, when the pressure went down – something even crazier happened. Once the pressure went down to the ballpark of 11 million times greater than on Earth’s sea level (and when the temperature went down by about 50.000 degrees), new chunks of diamond started to appear.
So not only did they not dissolve diamonds, they somehow made more of them!
But the picture you might be imagining up in your head may not be correct. Since diamonds did manage to liquify, the new chunks that were created were floating on the liquid parts. We know that this sounds very strange but stay with us. Sometimes science just sounds like science fiction.
Alright, so let’s say that we try to blast lasers at our diamonds, we manage to get them to liquify (not dissolve, mind you), and suddenly new chunks of the material start forming in the liquid.
That’s pretty neat, but what does it have to do with Neptune and Uranus?
We’re getting to it!
Well, these two are actually gas giants. This means that they have ultra-high temperature and pressure levels. So high, in fact, that in theory, there could be oceans of diamonds on them!
Think about it; they have the conditions for diamonds to form, that part’s easy even our own Earth has the means for that process. But they also have the conditions necessary for the liquefaction and the subsequent reformation of diamonds!
So where does that leave our other titan, the acid, you ask?
Well, not in a good place, if we’re being honest. Acidic liquids are capable of dissolving many materials, and they can be deadly to pretty much all living creatures on our planet – but diamonds just don’t seem to care about all that.
But if acid can’t dissolve a diamond, can it perhaps melt it? Melting is a completely different process, but is acid up to the task?
Can Acid Melt Diamonds?
To answer this question, first we need to take a look at what’s actually necessary to melt a diamond.
Contrary to popular belief, diamonds do have a melting point. We know, it sounds impossible! The melting point of a diamond is around 4500 degrees celsius (8132 degrees Fahrenheit). But as we stated above already, you need high pressure as well if you want this to work.
So in combination with the extreme heat, you need around 100.000 bars of pressure. Are you starting to see the problem here? Carboxylic acids, for instance, have a boiling point that’s about 101 degrees Celsius.
This, unfortunately, brings us back to the original problem in this match-up. There is no acidic liquid that can even come close to changing the structure of those incredibly tightly packed carbon atoms. It just can’t be done!
So no, to put it plain and simple, acid can’t melt diamonds. Acid can’t do anything to a diamond.
But let’s say that you did try to put diamonds in some acid, and you got a reaction from the diamond! Is the champion starting to show a weak spot? Can he be defeated?
Well, not exactly, but we have to explain the reaction anyway.
See while it’s safe to say that diamonds won’t have a reaction to acid at room temperature, parts of it actually CAN react (a little at least). See, diamonds are made of carbon, and carbon can be oxidized; you just need a powerful oxidant.
There are a lot of acids that will do the trick. Carbon can react to, say, potassium peroxymonosulfate at a temperature of 70 degrees celsius. That’s just one example of many!
But it’s important to remember that the reaction that can be seen in these situations is not the diamond getting dissolved or melted. It’s just bits of carbon getting oxidized. Again, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to burn or melt a diamond. But it is impossible to dissolve it, especially in acid!
Our champion remains undefeated!
Learn More: Do Diamonds Oxidize? Do Diamonds Vaporize?
What Would It Take To Burn Or Melt A Diamond?
So let’s take all this information and ask another question. What if you really want to melt a diamond under laboratory conditions? And let’s say that your laboratory is on Earth and not on Neptune or Uranus. Well, we have shown it to be basically impossible, but hey, why not implement some scientific trickery? It can’t hurt to try!
Alright, so to melt a diamond, logic would suggest that we need to burn it first. But how does that work? Well, you’ll need a lot of oxygen for it to happen, so your average cigarette lighter might be out of the picture.
To ensure the needed amount of oxygen is present, we would need to, for instance, put the diamond into liquid oxygen. It’s the most logical solution, so far, so good. But for oxygen to even exist as a liquid, it needs to be at a temperature of -183 degrees celsius (-297.4 degrees Fahrenheit). That kind of temperature might make melting difficult.
So maybe we heat the diamond up with a blow torch? If we bring its temperature to the highest possible point possible with an open flame and THEN drop it into liquid oxygen – would that do the trick?
Well, kind of. This will, in a way, burn the diamond, but there’s no guarantee that it will melt.
You might have noticed that we just keep running into one problem after another. It’s simple; diamonds are just incredibly durable! Even if we manage to melt the diamond by exposing it to extreme temperatures and ultra-high pressure – most scientists will tell you that you won’t get a melted diamond as a result. All you’ll get is liquid carbon.
You probably won’t even manage to get to the melting point because diamonds tend to just turn into graphite when they’re exposed to extreme temperatures in nature. They just always find a way to beat us.
Related Read: What Will Happen If You Burn A Diamond?
What Makes Diamonds So Durable?
So what is it about diamonds that makes them so durable? How is it possible that plain old carbon manages to come together and form such an amazing material?
Well, the process of diamond forming is, in essence, simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Diamonds are formed under extreme conditions, and it can take anywhere from one to three million years for the process to turn all that carbon into a diamond.
It works like this:
When under these conditions, carbon atoms bond and start growing crystals. But because of the extreme ways that are involved, the bond between these atoms is incredibly strong. Simply put, they’re packed together as tight as physically possible!
Each carbon atom is bonded to four other atoms. This means that each atom within a diamond is in a strong bond with four other atoms. This is how diamonds manage to be the hardest material on the planet.
And let’s get something straight; we’re not using the word hard lightly. The material is proven to be the most durable material in the world. It’s not just about their ability to cut glass, but they can do that easily, yes. Diamonds are used for industrial purposes like cutting or drilling all the time. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that they’re indestructible – heck, we found a way to cut them!
But because of these incredible bonds, it’s very hard to burn or melt them. We explained already, but there is one more way to think about this. For those carbon atoms to start forming their bonds, they need to be under the pressure of 725.000 pounds per square inch and at a temperature of 1000-1200 degrees celsius (2000-2200 degrees Fahrenheit).
When you grow up in such conditions, you tend to be pretty darn resilient to any inferior numbers that humans try to throw at you. When looking at these statistics, it’s easy to realize why melting diamonds might only be possible on other planets that have unimaginably high temperature and pressure levels.
Acid is, unfortunately, nothing but a mild inconvenience for those strong carbon atoms and their bonds. Sure, you can get them to react, which is something you don’t even expect from the material in the first place. But that’s chemistry for you!
It is amazing to think that we somehow turned this crystal that is millions of years old and turned into a beautiful accessory! Don’t get us wrong, they look great, even when found in their rough form underground. But humans learned how to turn them into a piece of art.
If diamonds are here to show what beautiful things our planet can make hundreds of ground under its surface, we’re here to take them as a gift and turn them into a thing of utter beauty!
So there you go! We hope that you got the answers to your questions. Acid, it seems, is no match for one of the strongest materials in the world. We gave it a try, and we did get a few good results, but no liquid can even come close to dissolving diamonds.
They’re just too tough. And who can blame them? After all, look at what we have to go through just to find the things! Put your mind at ease; the question is answered. So stop thinking about dissolving, and get yourself or your significant other a nice piece of jewelry, and remember our very own planet tried very hard to make it!