Lab-Grown Diamonds

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    • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in the budget 2023-24, the government’s proposal to focus on lab-grown diamonds by reducing the Customs duty on the seeds used in lab-grown diamond manufacturing.
      • FM also announced a grant to IITs to facilitate the growth of Lab-Grown Diamonds in India.
    • This will encourage the indigenous production of LGD seeds, machines and to reduce import dependency.

    Lab-Grown Diamonds

    • About: 
      • Lab-grown diamonds (LGD) are diamonds that are produced in laboratories, using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds.
    • Production Process of LGDs:
      • LGDs are mostly manufactured through two processes – high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method or Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method.
      • High pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method: HPHT method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius)
        • Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
      • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)method: A thin slice of diamond seed is placed in a sealed chamber and heated to around 800 degrees celsius, and then the chamber is filled with other carbon rich gases such as methane
        • The gases are ionised into plasma using microwaves, lasers, and other techniques. The ionisation breaks down the gases and allows the carbon to merge with the diamond seed, growing the diamond up layer by layer.
      • Both HPHT and CVD methods of growing diamonds artificially begin with a seed — a slice of another diamond.
    • Applications:
      • LGDs have basic properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provide them the signature diamond sheen. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes.
      • LGDs are most often used for industrial purposes, in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters.
      • Pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity. This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodes, laser arrays and high-power transistors

    Advantages of LGDs

    • The environmental footprint of a diamond grown in a laboratory is much lesser than that of a naturally-occurring diamond.A report by Diamond Foundry states that  it takes ten times more energy to extract a natural diamond from the earth than it takes in creating one above the ground
    • Since LGD’s are lab grown,they can be customised to improve properties that are specific to the application.Ex: hardness in industrial applications can be prioritised over optical or chemical properties. 

    Indian diamond industry 

    • Diamond occurs in two types of deposits, primarily in igneous rocks of basic or ultrabasic composition and in alluvial deposits derived from the primary sources.
    • Diamond fields of India are grouped into four regions:
      • South Indian tract of Andhra Pradesh,comprising parts of Anantapur, Kadapa,Guntur, Krishna, Mahabubnagar and Kurnool districts;
      • Central Indian tract of Madhya Pradesh, comprising Panna belt;
      • Behradin-Kodawali area in Raipur district and Tokapal, Dugapal, etc. areas in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh; and
      • Eastern Indian tract mostly of Odisha,lying between Mahanadi and Godavari valleys.
    • India is the world’s largest cutting and polishing center for diamonds,accounting for over 90% of polished diamond manufacturing globally.India exports more than 75% of the world’s polished diamond, gems and jewellery. 
    • India depends largely on imports of rough gem diamonds for its Cutting and Polishing Industry as there is no notable production except for one producer in Madhya Pradesh.
    • Diamond cutting and polishing is one of the fastest-growing sectors, mostly export-oriented and being labour intensive employs more than 5 million people,contributing around 7% to the country’s GDP and 15% to India’s total merchandise export
    • Attributing factors: Well supported by government policies since it earns foreign exchange, easy availability of high skilled labour, cutting-edge technology and lower costs involved.
    • Challenges: Uncertainty in Supply of Raw Material, Unorganised Market consisting family owned firms,Expected Rise in Diamond Prices and Falling International Demand and Competition from China are some of the factors plaguing the industry.

    Source: IE