Diamonds are forever?


Do diamonds break down over time–apart from getting bashed about? Would a naturally occuring diamond get eroded by weather? How about nuclear decay? Would bonds between the carbons simply break or rearrange?

If a 1 ct. diamond were floating in space all by its lonesome, how long would it last before it was gone or at least 50% something other than diamond?

Hmm, good questions. I do know that diamonds will burn, given fairly high temps.

Diamonds are, of course, subject to some chemical and physical reactions: those few electronegative ions that can break the tight aliphatic carbon-carbon bond in a diamond will of course react with, damage and ultimately destroy a diamond. Heat a diamond in air or oxygen past its flash point for that gas, and it will combust. Heat a diamond in vacuum or an inert atmosphere past the melting point, and it will melt (IIRC it sublimes but that’s immaterial).

Probably a fresh-formed diamond has a trace amount of carbon-14 in it; as that breaks down, there will be a microscopic flaw at that point; if interior, trapping a nitrogen atom. The percentage of carbon-14 compared to carbon-12 and -13 is so small, however, that this would not significantly damage the gross macroscopic crystal. I’m not aware of any natural diamond-forming processes that have occurred recently enough to leave any diamonds with measurable amounts of C-14 left in them.

Finally, the diamond structure is metastable; over geologic time, it turns to graphite. But this is not a significant consideration unless you have a few billion years to spare to observe the process.

Erosion of Pioneer 10 and 11: