• August 26, 2021

Why do some metals look like diamond?

A team of researchers in Switzerland has found that some metals, such as silver, look more like diamonds than steel.

A team of Swiss researchers have discovered that some non-metallic metals, like steel, look like diamonds.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have found that the metallic qualities of some nonmetal metals can be altered by chemical reactions.

The new findings suggest that metals may have a different optical properties than the usual ones that are normally associated with diamonds, and could be used in a variety of applications including medical implants, electronics and aerospace. 

The researchers have been exploring how these optical properties can be changed in order to better understand the material properties. 

“The discovery of non-magnetic metals has a huge potential for our understanding of their optical properties,” says lead researcher Guillaume Faucher, from ETH’s Institute of Physical Chemistry, who is affiliated with ETH’s Center for Nanoscale and Materials.

“It’s a really exciting finding, but it’s important to understand what the mechanisms are.”

“A diamond’s optical properties are very important, and this work opens up the possibility of using non-metal materials for optical devices.” 

The new research could be useful in the future, says Professor Guillaum-Pierre Blondel, director of the Department of Physics at ETH.

“In particular, it opens up a new area of research, which is to understand the optical properties of other non-physical materials.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We can now develop new optical materials with optical properties that are completely different from the usual properties,” explains Prof Blondell.

“For example, a material that is extremely expensive for manufacturing might have a very different optical characteristics than one that’s relatively inexpensive.”

The researchers studied metals such as zinc, silver and tin that are commonly used as part of industrial production, and found that they were less transparent than metals with the typical optical properties.

These results suggest that non-correlated optical properties may be more important than optical properties for determining the optical characteristics of a material.

“What we have now is a very promising starting point for the development of new materials,” says Professor Blondels co-author Dr. Jean-François Pomeroy.

“Now we can use these properties to develop new materials.” 

Professor Blondes team is currently working on new, improved techniques to manipulate the non-electron properties of metals.

“This is the first time that we’ve used optical techniques to study non-reactive metals,” he says. 

Prof Blondells team will now continue to develop novel methods to manipulate non-nonmagnetic metal properties, such the metallic properties of a non-fibrous metal. 

This research has been supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.