17-YEAR-OLD FINDS NEW WAY TO EXTRACT ROUGH FROM A ROCK
Hamdi Ali, a 17-year-old high school student from Edmonton, Canada, has become famous overnight: She discovered a new way to extract rough diamonds from the a rock without using the current method of mechanical crushing, Gem Konnect reports.
According to an article posted by industry analyst Ehud Laniado, crushing kimberlites is the first classic step in finding whether it contains diamonds. This step may be skipped, Laniado explains, if the diamonds are found in sand, earth or fine gravels. Crushing, a multi-stage process, essentially means breaking the rocks into ever smaller pieces and re-circulating larger pieces until everything is the right size to enter the processing plant. According to Gem Konnect, mechanical crushing endangers the diamonds within, while young Ali’s much cleaner way posed no such threat to the integrity of the stone.
Electric Pulses instead of Crushing
Together with her graduate student mentor Margo Regier, Ali, a participant of an experiment at the University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, & Technology (WISEST) program, took a piece of rock that contained diamonds, sawed it in half, and then ran two experiments: On one half, they used the current industry standard of vibrating metal plates to crush rock; the diamonds inside this half were destroyed.
For the other half, they shot high voltage electrical pulses through the rock through a machine called a SELFRAG. According to SELFRAG’s website, the Swiss-made machine uses high voltage discharges to fragment batches of material and liberate individual components from the whole, and is “ideal for use in geosciences, mining and recycling research”. Once Ali and Regier used the SELFRAG, The high pulses crumbled the rock, and ten diamonds came out intact.
Regier explained: “What that implies is that when you use a mechanical crusher you are actually damaging a significant number of diamonds and decreasing your total diamond yield”. Ali later presented the experiment to several industry geologists. She later said that while she had never even considered a career in geology when she began the WISEST program, “she now sees it as an option worth considering”.