How Are Diamonds Used in Industry?
Industrial diamonds are used for such a wide variety of purposes that a sudden shortage would cause havoc in many branches of manufacture and mining. This is because diamonds, as well as being the most brilliant and precious of stones, are also one of the hardest materials known to man. Their earliest use in industry was as an abrasive powder for sawing and polishing operations and for grinding metal-cutting tools.
Bort, which is the cheapest form of industrial diamond, is crushed into different grades for such purposes. Many kinds of drills use diamonds as cutters. The introduction of the carbonado or black diamonds of Brazil—less brittle than other forms—greatly improved rock drilling for geological and mine prospecting. But they have become so scarce that other suitable varieties have had to be substituted.
Fine wires, like those needed for electric lamp filaments, are produced by pulling the metal through diamond drawing dies. Diamonds are also employed for cutting glass and porcelain, for fine engraving, for dental surgery, and for bearings in watches.
Industrial diamonds are mostly used in cutting, grinding, drilling, and polishing procedures. Here, hardness and heat conductivity characteristics are the qualities being purchased. Size and other measures of quality relevant to gemstones are not important. Industrial diamonds are often crushed to produce micron-sized abrasive powders. Large amounts of diamonds that are of gemstone quality but too small to cut are sold into the industrial diamond trade.
Because diamonds are very hard they are often used as an abrasive. Most industrial diamonds are used for these purposes. Small particles of diamond are embedded in saw blades, drill bits and grinding wheels for the purpose of cutting, drilling or grinding hard materials. They might also be ground into a powder and made into a diamond paste that is used for polishing or for very fine grinding. The traditional methods used for cutting diamond into gems and polishing their surfaces involve using small particles of other diamonds as the cutting and polishing media.
The worldwide demand for industrial diamonds greatly exceeds the supply obtained through mining. Synthetic diamonds are being produced to meet this industrial demand. They can be produced at a lower cost per carat than mined diamonds and they perform just as well in industrial use.
Other Uses of Diamonds
Diamond windows are made from thin diamond membranes and are used to cover openings in lasers, x-ray machines, and vacuum chambers. They are transparent, very durable, and resistant to heat and abrasion.
Diamond speaker domes enhance the performance of high-quality speakers. Diamond is a very stiff material, and when made into a thin dome it can vibrate rapidly without the deformation that would degrade sound quality.
Heat sinks are materials that absorb or transmit excess heat. Diamond has the highest thermal conductivity of any material. It is used to conduct heat away from the heat-sensitive parts of high-performance microelectronics.
Low-friction microbearings are needed in tiny mechanical devices. Just as some watches have jewel bearings in their movements, diamonds are used where extreme abrasion resistance and durability are needed.
Wear-resistant parts can be produced by coating surfaces with a thin coating of diamond. In this process, diamond is converted into a vapor that deposits on the surface of parts prone to wear.