A British multi-millionaire and environmentalist has set out plans to create thousands of carats of carbon-negative, laboratory-grown diamonds every year “made entirely from the sky”.
Dale Vince, the founder of green energy supplier Ecotricity, claims to have developed the world’s only diamonds to be made from carbon, water and energy sourced directly from the elements at a “sky mining facility” in Stroud.
The “green technology first” uses carbon dioxide captured directly from the atmosphere to form the diamonds – which are chemically identical to diamonds mined from the earth – using wind and solar electricity, with water collected from rainfall.
The result is the “world’s first zero-impact diamond”, according to Vince, and they could even help to clean the air by removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.
The clean energy entrepreneur said he hopes to challenge the traditional diamond mining industry which causes “irreversible damage” to the environment.
“Making diamonds from nothing more than the sky, from the air we breathe – is a magical, evocative idea – it’s modern alchemy,” said Vince. “We don’t need to mine the earth to have diamonds, we can mine the sky.”
The owner of Forest Green Rovers, described as Britain’s first vegan football club, Vince said he has not yet decided on the price tag for the climate-conscious gems, which are accredited by the International Gemological Institute.
Lab-grown diamonds are rising in popularity as awareness of the environmental and socio-economic impact of the mining industry has grown.
In addition to the bloody conflicts that have erupted in diamond-producing regions, research has shown that producing a one-carat stone can involve shifting 1,000 tonnes of rock and earth, 3,890 litres of water and more than 108kg of carbon dioxide emissions.
Vince expects his new venture, Sky Diamonds, to produce 200 carats of the carbon-negative diamonds every month but said the facility could scale up to create 1,000 a month within the next year.
He told the Guardian that Sky Diamonds would use a process known as chemical vapour deposition to create the diamonds at his Gloucestershire facility.
This process typically involves placing a “diamond seed” within a sealed chamber, or “diamond mill”, which is heated to 800C and filled with carbon-rich methane gas. The carbon elements will gradually bond with the “seed” to create a diamond anatomically identical to a stone that has taken billions of years to grow underground.
Vince has promised to source the carbon dioxide directly from the air and will produce the hydrogen needed to make methane by splitting rainwater molecules using a renewable energy powered electrolysis machine.
“Nothing else was good enough for us when we had the idea,” Vince said.