• Question: Apparently peanut butter can be converted into a diamond. How does this work?

    Asked by JumaimaC on 25 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Oana Lazar

      Oana Lazar answered on 25 Jun 2020:

      This isn’t my area of expertise, but the only way I can think of this working is by burning the peanut butter in some way so you just get ashes.
      Carbon is an element which can form different types of structures – ashes are mostly just bits of charcoal (a form of carbon), graphite (pencil lead) is a different arrangement of carbon in what’s basically layers of crystals, and diamond is yet another arrangement of carbon, with a really cool 3D crystal structure. To get from one arrangement to another, you need a huge amount of energy, usually in the form of pressure and heat. So I don’t really see any way you could do this at home at all, but it just might be possible in a lab if you can add enough pressure and heat to the burnt peanut butter!

    • Photo: Conor Tickner

      Conor Tickner answered on 25 Jun 2020: last edited 25 Jun 2020 10:44 am

      Diamond is formed by putting carbon under intense pressures/temperatures.
      All (known) living things contain carbon, including plant matter such as peanuts.
      Therefore, if you compress and heat peanut butter enough, you could make the carbon in the peanut butter turn into diamond.
      It may be necessary to remove other materials first, such as by burning the peanut butter to leave behind ashes (which is mostly carbon), or by some other method.

    • Photo: Rosina Simmons

      Rosina Simmons answered on 25 Jun 2020: last edited 25 Jun 2020 11:14 am

      Diamonds are made up of only carbon, which is found in all animal and plants. If you burn anything to get ash, you can squeeze the ash under intense pressure and heat to get a diamond; some people choose to do this with ashes after a cremation, to turned their loved one into a diamond!

      This has been sucessful in a laboratory experiment, where the diamonds were made from peanut butter in 2014. The diamonds grew very slowly, and would get to around 3mm big in around 3 weeks. It’s not very fast! This report is pretty easy to understand if you want to read more: (https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a11630/how-to-turn-peanut-butter-into-a-diamond-17401814/#:~:text=In%20his%20quest%20to%20mimic,and%20carbon%20dioxide%20into%20diamonds.&text=The%20process%20essentially%20extracts%20the,intense%20pressure%2C%20and%20form%20diamonds.) The issue with this experiment is that the resulting hydrogen that is part of the reaction ruined the diamond (no longer pure carbon; carbon reacts with hydrogen to get something that is no longer a diamond).

      It’s interesting as this seems to be making a come back in home DIY and kitchen-science type videos. The ones I’ve seen use coal covered in peanut butter (which is then put in ice and left in the freezer overnight. As you probably guess, this won’t work at home because leaving a mostly-carbon source (coal) covered in peanut butter (not very much carbon) in a cold place with no pressure will not form any diamonds.

    • Photo: David Linsell

      David Linsell answered on 25 Jun 2020:

      In theory: because everything; solid, liquid, gas; is made up at the elemental level of Protons, Neutrons, Electrons and other fancy particles: a simple rearrangement of the particles would provide whatever element we wanted. This is the basis of old-fashioned Alchemy; Lead and Gold are almost alike, how can Lead be changed into Gold? In practice, as other Engineers have noted, it is not so simple. One must either use temperatures and pressures which may only ever be seen when stars and planets collide, or use complicated and very expensive particle accelerators to achieve Nuclear transmutation whereby the component elements of one substance can be manipulated into another substance, one atom at a time. Ultimately possible but comes under the category of, “Don’t try this at home.”
      But what other ‘uses’ could Peanut-Butter be put to? Could it be used, in specialised applications, as a: Lubricant, Glue, Surface filler, Filter medium, Fuel energy source, anything else?
      What would you use Peanut-Butter for?