A 17-year-old high school student from Edmonton, Canada, has discovered a new way to extract rough diamonds from the mother rock without using the current technique of mechanical crushing, which carries the high risk of the diamonds within the rock being damaged or broken into small pieces, reports CTV News, Edmonton.
Hamdi Ali, the teenaged student, made the discovery while running an experiment as part of the University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, & Technology (WISEST) program that focuses on creating effective programs to empower women (and other under-represented groups) to pursue, impact, and succeed in the fields of science, engineering, and technology.
Ali and her graduate student mentor Margo Regier began by x-raying a piece of rock to confirm that it did indeed contain rough diamonds. They then sawed the rock in two. On one half, they used the current industry standard of using vibrating metal plates to crush the rock. The diamonds inside this half were destroyed.
For the other half, Ali and Regier used a machine called a SELFRAG that shot high voltage electrical pulses through the rock and crumbled it. Ten diamonds came out intact from this half.
Regier commented, “What that implies is that when you use a mechanical crusher you are actually damaging a significant number of diamonds and decreasing your total diamond yield.”
Ali later made a presentation of the experiment to several industry geologists. She said she had not even considered a career in geology when she began the WISEST program. She now sees it as an option worth considering.