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Let's make Human Ashes into Diamonds!

So, let’s say you’ve died. How would you want your remains to be taken care of? Some more traditional people might choose being buried. But land is expensive, and gravestones degrade over time with acid rain anyway, so there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to this. Alternatively, you could get cremated (which is an increasingly popular choice now), but that does not fulfill some people’s urge to have a physical memento reminding family members of them. Well, now there is a solution: turning your ashes into diamonds. Wait, how does that work? Before we answer this, let’s delve into the world of carbon allotropes. Diamond is an allotrope (meaning a form of a specific chemical element) of carbon and is extremely strong. In the structure of diamond, one carbon atom is covalently bonded (shares electrons) with 4 other carbon atoms in a giant covalent structure. The tetrahedral shaped structure with the strongly bonded rigid network of carbon atoms makes diamond one of the hardest substances to exist. It also has a very high refractive index, meaning it sparkles easily due to a high number of internal reflections when light hits it. Knowing this, lets return to the concept of turning ashes into diamonds. We all know that human bodies contain a lot of carbon, so surely your ashes must contain a lot as well, right? Well, yes. If you’re already set on turning your body into a diamond, you can request for a special cremation process where the body is positioned so that the highest yield of carbon is attained. Alternatively, your ashes can be purified using a reaction with chlorine to remove any impurities. After this, manufactures place a few hundred grams of ashes into a crucible, and place it under extremely high pressure and temperature (as the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds, right?) so all elements except for carbon oxidize. After continuously heating it for a few weeks, the carbon in the ashes will turn into graphite (another allotrope of carbon). The next step is to place this graphite into a diamond press, along with a metal catalyst and a diamond seed crystal. A diamond seed crystal is just a very small crystal diamond that aids the growth of the diamond. The diamond press will “crush” this mixture at over 1300 degrees and 3 million kg per square inch, which will turn the graphite into crystal over a few weeks. After this rough crystal is formed, the company can use faceting tools to cut and shape the crystal to how the customer wants it. If you’re extra fancy, you can even request a custom color for the diamond in this process. After the diamond has been cut, it’s ready to wear or use (although I’m not sure what you would use it for…) in your everyday life. It’s safe to say, this is one chemistry experiment you do not want to try at home…

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