Israeli diamonds now sparkle not only on the fingers of happy Jewish women but also amidst the twinkling stars, after the space shuttle Atlantis launched two fine specimens into outer space.
Two diamonds cultivated by the Technion's Faculty of Chemistry will spend a year adorning Earth's orbit – roaming freely - after which time they will be returned to the Technion for studies of the damaging effects of the space environment, which may indicate their suitability in satellites. Diamond, nature's hardest material, typically stands up well to chemically erosive conditions, according to the Israeli Diamond Industry.
The experiment is part of study being conducted under the direction of Professor Alon Hoffman and Dr. Joan Adler of the Technion, with Dr. Irina Couzman of the Soreq Nuclear Research Center. Another associate, Technion doctoral student Zev Shpilman, is researching the interaction between diamonds and the space environment, looking for a material which will endure years of harsh conditions in coatings for space satellites.
The team's diamonds were transferred to NASA by Professor Tim Minton from Montana State University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and were added to a group of "wandering" items, including material swatches for future space suits. In a year, all the items will be collected by the International Space Station and returned to their respective labs.
In an article published by members of the Israeli research team, they assert that if diamonds are slowly and methodically lab-grown in a specific way, they will be especially durable in space. They have already conducted numerous tests at their simulated space environment lab at Soreq Nuclear Research Center.