Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Queen on a Diamond

The latest film from periodicvideos is something a bit quirky... we've etched a portrait of The Queen onto a diamond.

The symbolism is that people in the UK are currently celebrating her 60th year on the throne - or Diamond Jubilee.

And we're always looking for excuses to talk about chemicals - so why not diamonds?

It just seemed appropriate. Video below.

Being frugal, the diamond we used was second-hand.

It was a "window" taken from a broken instrument mount belonging to Professor Martyn Poliakoff (he says a student broke it?).

The people doing the engraving were Chris Parmenter and Mike Fay from the University of Nottingham's "Nottingham Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Centre".

They engraved the diamond using a beam of charged gallium ions, which essentially blast the image onto the diamond.

Our first effort (right) was good, but not great.

So the guys coated the diamond with a super-then layer of carbon. This allowed charge from the ions to be conducted away from the "blast zone".

 This ensured a more accurate beam was doing the etching.

The two portraits were created measured 92x64 microns and 46x32 microns - smaller than the eye can see!


We did not waste valuable microscope time - we did the etching during some down-time before the Easter break. We see it as a fun way to showcase the technology to an audience that wouldn't otherwise see it.

And yes, people have already started with the "why don't you cure cancer or prevent starvation" comments.

My response is simple.

What's the point of helping people live longer if they end up in a world devoid of art, fun and creativity?

The reason scientists help prolong life is, in my opinion,  so that we can do "pointless" things for fun, like etch the Queen's head onto a diamond!

As expected, the video has also created a healthy number of anti-royalty comments on YouTube.

I don't know what to say about except that we were not really trying to make any statement either way.

If anything, we've been a bit cheeky and piggybacked the Queen's celebration to have some fun of our own.

I think we should send the diamond to the Queen, just because it is such a silly thing to do.

Professor Poliakoff, being more sensible, wants to put it an appropriate museum or exhibition. Any takers?

PS: Some of you may remember a while back we created another famously small image - the world's smallest periodic table on a strand of hair. It is featured in this year's Guinness Book of Records.

All images in this article courtesy of www.periodicvideos.com


  1. Getting a little worried because of not hearing from you guys for a couple of weeks. I hope everything is all right?

  2. That is so cool!! Science and diamonds, my two favorite things :)
    Can you also do it on bigger colored diamonds and sell it as jewelry? That would be so cool!

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  6. Long time listener first time caller. I wanted to know what happened since the video was made. I know the diamond jubilee was quiet some time ago, but didn't find a video relating to what you actually did (if anything) with the etched diamond. Thanks for such great informative and entertaining videos.

  7. Maybe you can shine a light through it and see what that produces. It is a prism after all. Additionally you might try a laser.

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