Diamond Weevils Have Real Diamonds In Their Shells



Scientists recently discovered that the shiny bits embedded in the shell of the Diamond Weevil is more than just stylish bling- they're actually small diamonds grown for protection. Here's what they discovered, and what they plan to do with this discovery:
A new high-tech investigation reveals the diamonds are just that: chitin in a diamond-type arrangement that's optimized to throw off brilliant greens, yellows and oranges. What most people call diamonds are made of carbon, but other materials can take on the same crystal structure, called diamond cubic.

“Materials scientists could look to these scales to inspire new materials, but we don’t yet know how they are made,” said biophysicist Bodo Wilts of the University of Groningen, co-author of a Dec. 21 study of the scales in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“We’ve got some catching up to do,” Wilts said. “The nature-produced tiny structures are far beyond any human designs.”

The scales are a type of three-dimensional crystal, called a photonic crystal, which is much like an opal. Each kind of photonic crystal reflects a specific wavelength of light at a specific orientation. Other crystals lacking a regular 3-D structure, meanwhile, aren’t as brilliant or iridescent.
It seems that no matter how high tech our society becomes, we can always learn a thing or two from the natural world.

--via Wired --image via Bodo Wilts/Journal of the Royal Society Interface

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Thank you io. I was going to say the same thing. A crystal made out of something other than carbon is not a "real diamond," even if it has a similar structure. The beetle is definitely cool, and it would be nice to know the properties of these crystals. Can they be synthesized? Do they have industrial applications? Medical? Could I get my girlfriend some bug crystal earrings for her birthday?
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If a material has diamond cubic structure, it does not make it a kind of diamond. Likewise if a material has aluminum like structure does not make it aluminum (FCC). It is about the arrangement of atoms or molecules. In the nature many materilas share same crystal structures. FCC, BCC and HCP are the most prevalent in metals. Even polymers (like in this example) has some crystal ordering.
The discovery is important nevertheless, but in other aspects.
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