Though it’s been said for decades that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, even the most diehard fan has always had to admit that there are limits to what jewellery can accomplish. However much you might blow on a Bulgari or fork out for a Cartier, no amount of gemstones are ever going to be able to fulfill the need for food. They may be sparkly, but they’ll always leave you feeling hollow.
Until recently, the link between jewellery and dinner has been almost non-existent. Aside from providing an opportunity to show off your finery, eating has always been more about food than flash. However, thanks to a team of bling obsessed boffins in Germany, food and diamonds can now be one and the same.
At the Bayerisches Geoinstitut lab in Bayreuth, Germany, Dan Frost and his team are on a very expensive mission. Using cutting edge techniques and the latest equipment, Frost is attempting to recreate the conditions observed in the earth’s lower mantle - some 1,800 miles below the planet’s surface. Here, temperatures exceed 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and the pressure is some 1.3 million times greater than at sea level. It is also where the world’s diamonds are first formed.
Diamonds are created when rocks containing carbon dioxide are pulled by the earth’s tectonic activity towards the core of the planet. The conditions there are so extreme that they strip any substance of all elements other than carbon, which is then crushed and condensed by extreme pressure and heat, until all that remains is a diamond. It is these conditions that Frost and his team have been able to recreate.
Despite the serious sounding implications of Frost’s work, the process has had a number of unexpected side effects. Though originally intended to operate with more conventional materials, he and his team soon began to get curious about the possibilities of their process. Since almost everything on earth contains at least some carbon, they began to create diamonds from some surprising sources. One of these was peanut butter.
By subjecting any run-of-the-mill household brand of everyone’s favourite spread to these extreme conditions, Frost discovered that it was possible to turn almost anything into a diamond. Though he acknowledged that, when working with peanut butter specifically, the process was significantly messier and slower than with other more orthodox materials, the research shows that there are really no limits when it comes to artificial diamond making.
Despite the slightly silly side effects of Frost’s work, there are also some potentially serious implications for his method. Frost hopes that, in the future, the artificial diamonds that he is successfully producing can be used in the construction of a new generation of superconductors, as well as other expensive industrial technology. It may be less delicious, but it’s no less important.
Whether or not we will all soon be able to turn our Sunpat into swag remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s pretty impressive to think that our condiments can be used in such an unexpected way. Whatever happens in the future, it’s clear that the discovery adds a whole new layer to any spread labelled “extra crunchy”.