Stone Age to Diamonds and Beyond

Human use of materials has been used to define human history and technological progress. An article that I wrote on Linkedin, reviews human material usage from the stone age to diamond and beyond. Here is a summary of the Linkedin article.

The Stone Age never ended if we consider cement and concrete part of the stone age. The quantity of material also defines technological advancement. We now use about 100 tons of diamond per year and have materials that are stronger than diamond.

There are classic historical periods:

Stone Ages 3.4 million BCE – 2000 BCE

Bronze Ages 4000 BCE- 330 BCE

Copper Age 4000BC- 2000BC, Bronze Age 3000 BC-330 BCE

Iron Ages 1000 BC- Now

However, the Stone Age never ended if we consider cement and concrete part of the stone age. Thousands of years ago crude cements were made by crushing and burning gypsum or limestone. Materials were added and eventually concrete was created.

Worldwide over 10 billion tons of concrete is made every year. World Steel production is about 1.8 billion tons per year. In 1936, there were 122,000,000 long tons of steel produced in the world. Steel production has increased 15 times. World Oil production is now at 4.4 billion tons per year.

The World produces about 90 tons of industrial diamond. Each ton is 50 million carats. The price is in the range of $1 million per ton. China is expected to remain the world’s leading producer of synthetic industrial diamonds with annual production exceeding 4 billion carats. (80 tons).

Beyond Diamond
Researchers have architecturally designed plate-nanolattices – nanometer-sized carbon structures – that are stronger than diamonds as a ratio of strength to density.

Carbon nanotube bundles have been made that are several centimeters long and have a tensile strength of 80 gigapascals. Diamond has a tensile strength of about 60 gigapascals. the carbon nanotube bundles are 20 times stronger than kevlar

15 thoughts on “Stone Age to Diamonds and Beyond”

  1. It’s looking like ZBLAN optical fiber production may be the first orbitial manufacturing to go commercial. The economics appear to be a closing case, using a SpaceX dragon (maybe with a commercial freeflyer station but not required). There are now three companies actively doing ZBLAN manufacturing research on ISS, and some samples have already returned. I believe one has had two sample sets returned, and is refining their technique prior to committing to manufacturing.

  2. Depends on the purpose, really. Borts are used in industry for cutting purposes, but the higher quality gems have uses in optics and semiconductors.

  3. I was under the impression that industrial diamonds used small, black stones that were unsuitable for gem use so the gem industry ignored them.

    Is this not so? Or do they want to use the big, pretty, things but can’t because of the inflated prices?

  4. Probably one third of the moon’s molar mass is oxygen.

    Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen however..

  5. Interesting fact – but that won’t help if you plan to extract or refine something in space which requires oxygen, the point being that in all probability hardcore industrialisation may be impossible, at least on an Earth bound scale.

    The disturbing thing about such realities is that the very people that would probably have to sink money into such water, oxygen etc resource extraction would be the same people that would charge through the nose for it once humans are out there in numbers – not at all a dissimilar situation from the one in Total Recall.

  6. Where there’s a will there is a way. I’m reminded of Australian gold miners who separate fine gold not using water but by using bursts of air (because water is scarce).

  7. The use of diamonds in industry has been somewhat suppressed by the cartel for jewelry uses working to maintain scarcity. I’m reminded of “Doc” Smith’s Skylark of Space, where the protagonist plans on importing the alien gem “faidons” to Earth, and muses about telling everybody aliens use them for reflectors on car bumpers, just so they won’t be monopolized by the jewelry market, and will be available for industrial and scientific purposes.

  8. In the end game, what choice do we have but to solve these issues and branch off the homeworld? These issues must be overcome, or like the rats, we will all be gone.

  9. Significant pracitcal limitations apply to space based industry.

    A ready supply of oxygen and water being important ones, and any industrialisation will naturally have to lag behind actual ability to sustain an environment for the necessary human presence to industrialise space – unless of course the planned industrialisation relies on either human directed robotics from Earth/near Earth locales and/or autonomous control systems for endeavors too far away for real time human control (such as constructing safe and spacious habitation on Mars).

  10. Yes, space industrialization promises previously unheard of kinds of materials.

    It has not taken off because industry and material research has been mostly Earth-bound so far.

  11. I think that someone in the government needs to make a list in all products that China has a global hold on and work together with our allies to make viable alternatives for each and everyone. This is a matter of national security.

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