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Why Can Blue Diamond Conduct Electricity?

Why Can Blue Diamond Conduct Electricity?

Let’s talk about blue diamonds. When we mention diamonds in general, we usually think of them in the form of jewelry and beautifully cut gems. 

However, diamonds have many other functions besides this one. Many rough diamonds can’t be shaped into a profitable gem – so they’ll get a different role assigned to them.

Now, when you have diamonds that are meant for industrial use, many new possibilities pop up. 

Diamond is a great material for cutting and drilling, for instance, since it has the highest score on the Mohs scale and can cut through many other materials. They’re not the most durable stone in the world – but they are tough in their own right. 

But there’s a whole other side to them that doesn’t get talked about enough. 

Diamonds are, for instance, incredible insulators. They’re made of only one material – carbon – and its atoms are so incredibly packed together that electricity can’t get transferred through them at all. 

And yet, with that said, blue diamonds are known as semiconductors. So, what’s the deal? Why can blue diamond conduct electricity? And why the heck are they blue? 

Let’s find out!

Why Can Blue Diamond Conduct Electricity?

Alright, so if diamonds are such great insulators, then how come blue diamonds conduct electricity? Is it because they’re blue? Well, it may sound strange, but yes – that’s exactly why. 

We know that sounds a bit weird, but let us explain, and it will all make sense. Blue diamonds are colored because they are boron-doped. What does that mean? 

It means that while regular translucent diamonds have no color because they’re just carbon atoms packed together in a crystal matrix, blue gems are a combination of carbon and boron. The combination leans heavily to the carbon side, as traces of boron are extremely minimal between the other atoms. But still, it’s enough to turn isolators into semiconductors. 

That goes to show you how little electricity needs to start running around. The presence of boron also makes the diamonds appear blue – much like traces of aluminum make regular diamonds appear red, thus turning them into rubies. 

But rubies are not conductors, so it’s obviously pretty important what the combination is. 

Blue diamonds are very rare, which is why they’re incredibly expensive – even when compared to their colorless brothers. They’re rarely considered for industrial use because of this; let’s just get that straight. 

Even though they can let some current flow through them, they are still far too sparse and pretty to be used for such things. Plus, plenty of other materials do the job better – and for a lot less money. 

While we’re on the subject, you might have heard a thing or two about lab-made blue diamonds. And while yes, these gems can be created in a laboratory, they can’t conduct electricity. 

See, artificial and natural blue diamonds are not the same thing. Natural ones are blue because of the boron presence. Lab-made blue diamonds get created by irradiating translucent diamonds with high energy. 

So basically, no boron means no electricity when it comes to our favorite gem!

Read Also: Do Black Diamonds Conduct Electricity?

Why Do Some Materials Conduct Electricity – And Others Don’t?

Alright, so why is it that some things conduct electricity while others don’t? 

Well, that may be a bit of a broad question, but we can still try to answer it. Firstly though, we’ll have to cover some electricity basics. Don’t worry; we won’t get tangled up in the details. We just want to make sure that you leave knowing the basics of how this all works.

Three types of conductors exist – metals, semiconductors, and electrolytes. We already mentioned what category blue diamonds fall into – semiconductors. 

These three categories of substances are different in many ways but share one common trait that marks them good at their job – they contain charge carriers. 

And what are charge carriers? 

Well, they can be a couple of things. To put it simply, they’re anything that can carry an electrical charge. But to elaborate just a bit, they can be free electrons, ions, and positively charged holes. 

The last one sounds complicated, but we’ll explain ourselves, don’t worry.

Metals are first on the list, and for a good reason. They are quite popular in many industries as conductors. But you’d be surprised to hear that they only have one of the three ways of carrying and transferring a charge – and that would be free electrons. 

Non-metals, on the other hand, don’t have any free electrons. Because of this, they’re not considered conductors at all. 

The second category is electrolytic solutions. These solutions can carry and transfer a charge due to the presence of mobile cations and anions. You might have guessed by the names that it’s the ions that we’re talking about here. 

These atoms – or groups of atoms – have one or more positive or negative electrical charges. 

Lastly, we come to semiconductors. The name might be a bit confusing, as they actually have both free electrons and positively charged holes. 

These holes are basically, well, holes. They are the absence of electrons that could fit an electrically charged particle. Because of this, they act as positively charged particles in a sense.

Other charged electrons and particles use these holes to pass through. Crystals are famous for them, and blue diamonds seem to have them – though in small percentages. 

That is because, as we mentioned, they contain boron.

In its elemental form, boron is a metalloid that’s made up of three electrons that form a covalent bond. Because of this, it can be turned into many compounds – boric acid, borax, and an incredibly hard material called boron carbide.

Boron carbide is a boron-carbon ceramic, a covalent metal that is often used in tank armor, engines, bulletproof vests, etc. 

Now, we know that a boron-carbon material sounds like the description of a blue diamond, but it’s not the case. Blue diamonds contain very little boron – just enough to turn them blue. That brings us to our next subject.

Why Are Certain Diamonds Colored?

Okay, we’ve established that blue diamonds are blue because they have traces of boron inside of them. But how the heck does that boron end up inside the diamonds? Well, it’s pretty simple, really – but let us explain:

When diamonds are being created, it’s mostly a matter of many carbon atoms getting pushed together under some pretty extreme conditions – the conditions being high heat and pressure levels.

These levels are usually found only underneath the Earth’s crust – and sometimes within it. We obviously know that there’s a lot of carbon down there, which is why we’ve been finding diamonds all over the place. 

But, it would be crazy to say that it’s the only element available. 

Since there are so many, one of these elements was bound to start mixing up in the process. See, translucent diamonds are colorless because they only have one element – carbon. 

Granted, they can go yellow, but that has nothing to do with the chemical compound. It’s just the inclusions and scratches that don’t let the light pass through in the same way that it would with a clean stone.

Not all elements can manage to bond up with carbon – especially in these extreme conditions. But some notable ones that have made it onto the list are nitrogen, sulfur, aluminum, and, you guessed it – boron. 

And that’s just to name a few. These combinations usually create red, yellow, green, and blue diamonds. 

Rubies, for instance, are a combination of the mineral corundum – aluminum oxide. The combination of corundum and carbon gives us one of the most saturated and rich-colored diamonds on the planet. 

Rubies are also known as bloodstones, and we get what they were aiming for with that name. Blue diamonds and rubies have one thing in common, though – they’re very rare

See, there is boron and corundum all around under the surface of the Earth. But it takes more than just the presence of one of these elements for a colored diamond to form. 

It’s a game of chance – and the odds are kind of stacked against them. It’s just how it works, unfortunately, which is kind of a bummer. We’d love to see more blue diamonds around! It is possible to get them to form in a lab, but it’s just not the same, is it?

Can Lab-Grown Blue Diamonds Conduct Electricity?

You might remember that we mentioned how lab-made blue diamonds couldn’t conduct electricity. The explanation is a simple one; they’re just not created in the same way. 

But that might not be a complete truth.

See, most artificial blue diamonds are not boron-doped, meaning they’re not blue because of the boron. That’s because we found another way to create the same effect: Lab-grown blue diamonds are made by irradiating translucent diamonds with high energy.

What the heck does that mean, anyway? Well, back at the beginning of the 20th century, Sir William Crookes decided to do a couple of experiments that would combine radiation and diamonds. The point was pretty much just to see what would happen. 

And there was plenty to see, let us tell you.

His first experiment made “regular” translucent diamonds go from colorless to dark green. This sounded and looked like a great discovery; we could color diamonds with radiation! 

But, as it often happens with radiation, a problem popped up: The brand new color treatment made the diamonds radioactive. Sir William expected this, though he didn’t expect the levels to be so high that the diamonds couldn’t be worn.

Another issue was that this only colored the surface of the diamond; the inside stayed as colorless as always. And it didn’t cover the whole surface evenly but localized the color in patches all over the place. Luckily, since then, we have found new, safer ways to irradiate diamonds, which colors them throughout evenly. 

Also, we don’t make them dangerously radioactive – which is a plus if you ask us. When you make a diamond this way, it keeps its chemical compound the same. That means that the new lab-grown blue diamonds are an isolator, not a semiconductor. 

So, unlike its cousin from the wilderness, no current can be passed through the atoms of the lab-made blue diamond. There are other ways of doing it, though.

See, exposing the diamonds to high energy levels is a more efficient way of creating colored diamonds in a lab. It’s very possible to make a boron-doped diamond in the lab; all you need is, well, boron! 

And while it’s not a substance that’s very famous underneath the Earth’s surface, we happen to have plenty of it up here.

So, if you have a boron-doped lab-grown diamond, it will conduct electricity just like the real thing! 

Are Blue Diamonds Expensive? 

So, the last thing that we want to cover here is the price of these strange natural semiconductors. We mentioned that they’re pretty rare – but does that affect the price? 

Well, yes and no – depending on how you look at it. 

See, diamond pricing is a strange topic. While yes, when a diamond turns blue, it will be worth more than a translucent one would be. But, the thing is that it might not be worth more than a really good translucent one. 

Let us explain: There are many factors that need to be included in the equation here, and diamonds have to get valued with the 4Cs system.

So, if a colorless translucent diamond that is pure and perfectly cut is getting priced – it’s going to get a higher price than an included blue diamond might. 

Still, the color does add a lot to the table. The thing that does not affect the value is the fact that this gem can carry a charge within its atoms. 

Blue diamonds being semiconductors has absolutely no impact on their values. It’s the same story with rubies, as well. They are rare, and to some, they look far better than traditional colorless gems. But there’s a standard in the industry that needs to be kept – and that’s the end of that.

See Also: Do Blue Diamonds Sparkle?

Final Words

So, there you have it! We tried our best to provide a quick crash course on the subject of blue diamond conductivity. And we do hope that it made a difference!

Diamonds are pretty simple – but there’s always something new that you can learn. 

So, keep doing research; there is more than enough knowledge and fascinating diamond facts in the world. Why not pass some of it around?

Related Read: Silver Ring With Blue Stone Meaning