One thing we know for sure is that diamonds are good thermal conductors. There are even testers that check your diamond’s authenticity according to the heat it registers. So, while we’re on the subject, what’s the connection between diamonds and electricity?
Have you ever stopped to look at a diamond and wondered, can diamond conduct electricity?
Unfortunately, no – in their standard form, diamonds are not electrical conductors. However, that story doesn’t end there.
If you are interested in this, we advise you to stay until the end of this article and discover why diamonds can be thermal and not electrical conductors. Plus, we’ve prepared more interesting information related to your shiny gemstone!
Diamonds Are Not Electrical Conductors
You may have read a lot of different articles on this topic, but we are here to clear the air once and for all.
Diamonds in their standard form ARE NOT electrical conductors.
That, however, might confuse many diamond enthusiasts because of their unique physical composition.
Provided that you have read many articles on how diamonds are formed and heard about their connection with meteors and powerful lightning storms – it rains diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter – it becomes easy to assume that diamonds could conduct electricity.
Well, that assumption would be wrong.
But before we continue, it should be clear that a diamond is primarily a mineral and is characterized by enormous resistance.
Since diamonds are made of pure carbon, and this chemical element consists of electrons in its outer shell, many people believe that the long list of diamonds’ properties also includes electrical conductivity.
Why is this not true?
In the case of diamonds, carbon atoms are joined together into a giant covalent structure. Each electron of each carbon atom creates a covalent bond with other electrons, resulting in a tetrahedral arrangement.
And what is this? A tetrahedral arrangement of carbon atoms means that four other neighboring atoms join each carbon atom, forming strong covalent bonds.
This bond leaves no room for free electrons. And if there are no free electrons that would “transport” the charge, there’s no way for diamonds to conduct electricity.
Although this statement proves that diamonds are not electrical conductors, they have plenty of other impressive physical, mechanical, and chemical properties.
So, while we’re here, let’s recall some general characteristics of a diamond:
- Low coefficient of friction
- High electrical resistivity ( – )
- High thermal conductivity ( + )
- High strength
- Broad transparency
- Chemical corrosion resistance
Conductivity Vs. Resistivity: A Closer Look
Since there is a lot of confusion about these two types of properties, it might be a good time to address this issue in relation to diamonds.
Conductivity and resistivity are the properties of a conductor. Conductors – that would be diamonds, in this case – are supposed to allow the flow of, or conduct, thermal and electrical energy through them.
However, from what you’ve read previously, you know that this is not the case – at least not when it comes to electricity.
Whether or not an element is a conductor capable of electrical and thermal conductivity depends on the number of free electrons that are present in the composition of that element and the structure of covalent bonds.
What probably led you to think that diamonds can be electrical conductors is the fact that the two most famous conductors in the industry are metal and glass.
How can this help you when it comes to diamonds?
Well, if your diamond has electrical conductivity, chances are it’s a fake one.
What Is Resistivity?
Resistivity is the extent to which a conducting material (again, a diamond) can oppose electrical currents within and instead allow the energy to flow outside through heat. This resistance is measured in ohms.
And yes, this is a trait that diamonds possess – in terms of electricity, at least.
What Is Conductivity?
Conductivity implies the ability of a specific conducting material (in this case, a diamond) to withstand the flow of electrical currents in the interior structure. So, in essence, this is the polar opposite of resistivity.
Conductivity is measured in siemens.
A famous electrical conductor is copper wires. On the other hand, cloths, glass, rubber, and diamonds – the star of today’s discussion – are extremely poor electrical conductors.
Here’s something to keep in mind: Conductivity and resistivity are reciprocal, and their product will always be one. The lower the conductivity, the higher the resistance – and vice versa.
Diamonds Are Insulators
The exact definition of an insulator would be a material that is a poor conductor of electricity. Given everything we talked about, that means that diamonds are good insulators.
Graphite, unlike diamond, is a better electrical conductor because, in its structure, each carbon atom is bonded to only three other carbon atoms. In the case of diamonds, we saw that there were four atoms.
Why Does Diamond Conduct Heat But Not Electricity?
A common assumption – or, rather, misconception – regarding conducting electricity comes from the example that all metals have high electrical conductivity.
But for one, diamonds are minerals. And two, you need a certain electrical bond for this to happen.
When it comes to metals, electricity is conducted through free electrons. That’s also known as conduct charge – or, simply, electricity. The metal consists of a huge number of free electrons, which allow the electricity to pass through undisturbed.
In minerals, such as diamonds, there are no free electrons, though. Instead, there is a four-atom bond that we have already mentioned.
That does not allow the free emission of electricity that can be seen in some metals – but it contributes to other unique properties, such as heat conductivity.
The complex bond of atoms and phonons in a diamond allows heat to be transmitted at high speed.
New Research & Discoveries About Diamonds’ Conductivity
It’s true that diamonds in their standard form do not possess the property known as electrical conductivity.
However, the jewelry industry, and technology in general, have developed so much in the past few years, leading to the creation of a new type of diamond – the so-called boron-doped diamond.
To clarify, boron-doped diamonds are diamonds used for electrochemical purposes, and we can now manipulate their growth through the addition of boron to turn them into good electrical conductors.
Another staggering advancement in this area, made in 2020 by an international group of researchers, is a study that shows that diamonds could conduct electricity – much like metals – when deformed to nanoscale strains.
There’s early proof of concept. However, it is still early for any solid evidence regarding this deformed type of diamond.
Electrical Conductivity Alternatives
Although diamonds are not good electrical conductors, there are alternatives that are similar to these shiny gemstones, and you have certainly heard of them before.
The two most popular ones are quartz and liquid crystals.
Let’s say a little more about them.
Quartz is among the hardest minerals that contain oxygen atoms – an essential element for conducting electricity. Granted, this type of mineral is perhaps better known to you as an integral part of sea rocks.
But what makes this stone special is the range of colors in which it is found.
Unlike diamonds, which are usually transparent, quartz comes in all possible colors – yellow, blue, purple, red, brown, orange, etc.
These are some of the significant properties of quartz:
- Piezoelectric property (generating electric potential)
- One of the hardest occurring minerals
- The ability to withstand very high temperatures
- Visually attractive
Quartz In Jewelry Production?
Quartz is very famous in jewelry production. Its hard but polishable and shiny composition makes it such a beautiful gemstone.
The history of quartz goes a long way. This gemstone first appeared in 7000 BD in Mesopotamia.
Since then, it has become popular – and today, you can find quartz gemstones all over the world.
In addition to possessing exceptional beauty, quartz is associated with many cultures and religious beliefs. In the past, the Egyptians believed that these crystals could prevent aging.
The most popular type of quartz is rose quartz. It can be cloudy pink or pure baby pink.
However, jewelry is not the only purpose quartz can have.
This gemstone is also used in making glass and kitchen countertops. The durability of quartz is highly valued in the ceramic industry.
Apart from interior design, quartz can be used in making sharpening tools. Knives, cutting weapons, and repair tools have been made of quartz for hundreds of years – if not longer.
Related Read: Diamond Vs. Quartz: Comparison Guide
Another type that you may be familiar with is liquid crystals. Unlike quartz and diamond, the properties of liquid crystals are somewhat different.
The molecules found in true liquid crystals are in constant motion, which makes them isotropic. On the other hand, crystalline solids are anisotropic and are known to possess both thermal and electrical conductivity.
This crystal was accidentally discovered in the late 1800s in liquid form, hence the name “liquid crystal.”
A long time has passed since the discovery, and sometime around the 1960s, scientists devoted themselves to researching the physical properties of this crystal in more detail.
What they discovered is that it has the ability to scatter light.
The Uses Of Liquid Crystals
What makes liquid crystals interesting is the fact that they can be found absolutely everywhere. You have indeed seen them in lava lamps, TVs, various computer monitors, clocks, etc.
Here’s a fun fact: These crystals are also found in living beings.
Our body is made up of over 90% water – and it is responsible for most bodily functions. That also means that there are traces of lyotropic liquid on the walls of your cells.
Liquid Crystals In Mood Rings?
You probably had the chance to hear about mood rings from your parents. Heck, you might’ve even had one as a child. This jewelry reached its peak popularity during the 1970s when the hippie movement was still ongoing and popular.
While some believed in the power of this stone, others considered it only a childish gimmick.
The key to the “power” of these rings to show a person’s current mood is actually related to their composition. Namely, the molecular composition of mood rings is neither totally solid nor liquid.
These pieces of jewelry can change their fluidity.
Mood rings work on the principle of changing according to body temperature. By increasing or decreasing, the color of your mood ring changes. And these changing colors supposedly indicate different moods.
The real question is, where do liquid crystals fit in here?
The stone of the mood rings is actually a piece of hard glass or quartz – which we mentioned earlier – filled with liquid crystals.
We can all agree that this was a rather complex topic, but we managed to extract useful information and conclude this article.
As you have already read, diamonds in their standard shape cannot conduct electricity. Therefore, they are bad electrical conductors.
However, diamonds possess other important physical characteristics, such as high thermal conductivity.
Since technology has evolved tremendously over the past few years, scientists have discovered boron-doped diamonds, showing electrical conductivity to some degree.
However, this is still all relatively new.
Although diamonds are not good electrical conductors, there are several alternatives you can count on in this department – mainly quartz and liquid crystals.
Okay, that’s enough information for today – at least when it comes to the matter of can diamonds conduct electricity or not. You can browse our other articles for all things gems-related, though!