The «Sestroretsk diamond pipe»

Russia will develop the «Sestroretsk diamond pipe»


«INREAL», established in the early 1990s, is now a pacemaker in the production of industrial diamond goods and diamond grinding powder, which enjoy brisk demand from a variety of industries, including those manufacturing high-tech products.

«INREAL» gave birth to other two independent entities, which are «Nevsky Brilliant» and «New diamond technologies» (later renamed «New Diamond Technology»). «Nevsky Brilliant» is manufacturing polished diamonds from natural rough diamonds of all sizes, while «New diamond technologies» is focused on synthesizing high-quality single diamond crystals and on changing color characteristics of rough and polished diamonds. The combination of all the three companies resulted in a holding engaged in waste-free diamond production.

Rough&Polished asked Alexander Kolyadin, CEO of «INREAL» to tell our readers about what is being done by this holding in the field of diamond synthesis.

What does your company, «New Diamond Technology» do?

Some time ago, our company «INREAL» developed a proprietary technology for the commercial cultivation of nitrogen-free colorless (type IIa) large diamonds (4 to 10 carats) using cubic presses and the HPHT method. In this way, it was possible to grow 9 stones in a single run, totally weighing 45 carats and belonging to the highest color grades (D, E, F). Our company has managed to exceed the threshold of 5 to 6 carats, reached by a few companies engaged in growing crystals by the HPHT method in Toroid-, Bars- and Belt-type presses, as well as in cubic presses. So far, it turned out unrealistic to achieve this by the CVD method.

The newly born company, «New Diamond Technology» based in Saint Petersburg and headed by Nikolaj Khikhinashvili, will put the process of growing nitrogen-free single diamond crystals on an industrial footing. Its main line of business is the production of large-size single diamond crystals for use in the diamond micro- and power electronics, optics and tool industry. Of course, we shall not leave the jewelry segment unattended.

What kind of technologies are needed for this process?

To produce single diamond crystals of large size in quantities needed for a variety of industries, you will have to possess powerful and quite expensive pressure equipment and carbide tooling providing a pressure of 5.5 to 7.8 hPa in cubic containers ranging in size from 74x74x74 to 92x92x92 mm with temperatures inside these containers reaching 1400°C to 2100°C. You will also have to acquire special materials for making such containers able to withstand the mentioned pressure and temperature for a long time. This process involves special precision alloy catalysts facilitating the production of good-color single crystals, as well as the ability to control the temperature field and the flow of carbon within the container to grow many flawless crystals in several layers during one cycle. To ensure the above-mentioned parameters for the synthesis process, it is necessary to maintain uninterrupted power supply and indoors temperature, as well as to have high production standards and, what is very important, to bring together high-level specialists.

The newly established company has acquired the most powerful (5,000 metric ton) modern presses, produced in China. This batch of presses appears to be the biggest even in the eyes of any of the large-scale Chinese companies manufacturing huge quantities of diamond powders. Currently, we are installing this equipment, but the first mounted presses have already started to produce finished goods.

Sure enough, you got quite a few attractive offers from abroad?

We do have business proposals coming both from manufacturers and consumers, as well as from gemmological centers. We strive to show our products to leading gemmological centers to quickly resolve the issues related to identification of synthetic diamonds and facilitate the study of their properties, so that as a result we could see faster formation of the market for this new material. The top management of GIA and the Diamond Department of the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF), as well as the Gemmological Center of the Moscow State University and the IGC have expressed their interest in the specifics of this production technique. Currently, GIA is performing a comprehensive study of a batch of our largest (of those known at this date) colorless diamonds belonging to top grade colors (D, E, F) and having good quality characteristics (VVS-VS-SI1). We hope that after completing the study of our polished diamonds GIA will publish an ample article containing the results of this research in their collected works. After a series of meetings with the Swiss Gemmological Institute, they expressed a strong desire to use our polished diamonds to define more exactly all the property nuances associated with synthetic diamonds on their newly created high-performance devices.

However, the industrial aspect in our business remains prevailing. Our great desire is to work with leading foreign and domestic academic and research centers, large industrial enterprises to create diamond active and power electronics systems, as well as with companies engaged in producing CVD-grown crystals and plates for electronic and optical application based on HPHT plates. We would like to take part in replacing natural diamonds in drill heads, extenders and calibrators used in oil and gas production with modern nitrogen-free and boron-doped diamond crystals of different morphologies having higher wear resistance. Promising application is expected in the study of various materials using ultrahigh-pressure (over 1 million atm) equipment with anvils made of synthetic diamonds. An important trend is the use of synthetic single crystals in micromechanics. Currently, we are a supplier of diamond products for the mega-grant project in the field of diamond micro- and power electronics led by prominent American scientist Dr. James Butler. The project is fulfilled with financial grant support of the Government of the Russian Federation according to the Resolution 220 and Contract № 14.В25.31.0021 with the leading organization Institute of Applied Physics (IAP).

And how about your Chinese competitors? How much are you ahead of them or vice versa?

The Chinese diamond industry is developing at a very high pace. Being a virtual monopoly in the production of diamond powders, it has exceeded the level of 10 billion carats per year, which resulted in overstocking the industry with these goods. Therefore, Chinese factories are beginning to look for new and more cost-effective types of diamond products seeking more efficient use of the thirty thousand cubic presses in their possession. Single diamond crystals, larger than diamond powder, appear to be one of such materials. Just two years ago, some of the top managers of Chinese factories told me that they needed presses like Bars-300 for growing crystals. They did not believe that cubic presses can effectively grow such crystals. By the way, Element Six was of the same opinion. Now, there are already several factories in China, which are learning the synthesis of colorless diamonds, working with Chinese scientific schools. A significant contribution to this comes from the Ukrainian Institute of Superhard Materials. However, most of these factories operate less powerful presses compared with ours, but they engage up to one hundred of such presses to produce single diamond crystals. Yet, major producers seek to upgrade their equipment fleet. For example, China-based Henan Huanghe Whirlwind International Co., Ltd., which is one of the world’s largest diamond producers (making diamond powders, single crystals and polycrystals), has about 20 presses with a capacity of 5,000 tons, whereas we have 30 such machines. We intend to launch all of them by the end of February. Therefore, we shall develop the so-called "Sestroretsk Diamond Pipe", but it will produce synthetic nitrogen-free diamonds. In terms of our capacity and size of diamonds, we shall be equal to at least one mining unit of ALROSA.

Veronica Novoselova, Rough&Polished