The role of vacuum in synthetic diamonds' production

Mention diamonds and most people will associate that with the jewelry sector. They will also have in mind that such gems are to be found in mines and sometimes won under severe conditions (โ€œblood diamondsโ€). For such reasons, the industry already investigated in the 1950s how to produce synthetic diamonds.

Today, there are several processes available to create artificial diamonds. Not only for jewelry where even experts are challenged to differentiate a natural diamond from an artificial, but also for the much larger market for diamonds in the industrial sector. 

Four outstanding properties of synthetic diamonds

The key properties of synthetic diamonds that make them so interesting for the industrial sector are:

Some typical industrial application examples are machining and cutting tools, window material for transmitting infrared and microwave radiation, and heat sinks for lasers and transistors. Synthetic diamonds are also the base material for semiconductor wafers and Qubits for quantum computing. 

How are diamonds obtained?

Traditionally diamonds were naturally formed billions of years ago in the earthโ€™s crust by carbon atoms being exposed to intense heat and pressure. However, due to technical advances, a new source of synthetically grown diamonds was created. This market can be divided into 2 main manufacturing methods:

  1. HPHT (High-Pressure High Temperature)โ€“ This method is based on how diamonds were naturally formed - compress carbon and add heat. The equipment footprint often has large and limited process control.
  2. CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition)โ€“ This method is based on creating a vacuum environment and then introducing specific gasses to trigger a reaction. The equipment footprint often has a small and excellent process control.

MPCVD (Microwave Plasma CVD) growing process

Due to its small footprint and excellent process controls, the MPCVD growing process has gained in popularity. One important part of the MPCVD process is the creation of and maintaining optimal vacuum conditions inside a growth chamber. A typical growth chamber setup looks as below:

Synthetic diamond-making process. Source: NNE, 2019

The typical process steps are the following:  

  1. Layout diamond seed/substrate
  2. Close chamber and evacuate chamber for conditioning, heat up substrate
  3. Introduce hydrogen
  4. Turn on microwaves and generate plasma (~4000 ยฐC) above the substrate
  5. Introduce process gases and start epitaxial growth
    • Methane โ€“ carbon source
    • Ethanol, Acetone, or Oxygen (optional) โ€“ helps improve the quality through oxygen plasma etching effect
    • Nitrogen (optional) โ€“ helps speed up the process (learned from experience and made MPCVD growing feasible economically)
  6. 1 to 4 weeks of growth period

Which are the vacuum pump requirements for the growth period?

  1. Initial pump down to about 2E-2 mbar base pressure
  2. Maintain pressure (100-300 mbar, typically in a range of 100-130 mbar) while process gasses flow
  3. Low-pressure cleanup of diamond color after production

Nowadays, oil-sealed rotary vane pumps are typically used in the MPCVD process. This is because these pumps are very well suited to achieve low conditioning pressure but also because they are mainly designed for continuous operation at fine vacuum. Additionally, these pumps face poor lubrication, overheating, or high oil loss when operating for days in the rough pressure phase required by this process.


Advantages of oil sealed pumps 

The oil lubrication of these vacuum pumps is secured by a built-in oil pump, which also enables a uniform oil distribution at rough pressure operation, whereas standard pumps without such oil pumps could fail.

Our range of rotary vane pumps is designed for operation at rough pressure and provides a perfect solution for the diverse pressure requirements of this growing process:

Browse Ash Air's range of vacuum pumps

Claw Pumps

The Ash Air range of rotary claw vacuum pumps is the best alternative to rotary vane pumps. A vacuum claw pump is virtually zero maintenance and compared to rotary vane pumps can work at vacuum levels of 400 to 1000 mbar without overheating. Rotary claw vacuum pumps are the best choice for CNC guided wood routers.

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Liquid Ring Pumps

The Ash Air range of humble liquid ring pumps is still the most reliable form of large volume vacuum generation available today. These liquid ring pumps are simple to use and very reliable, and the best option when sucked air contains a large amount of saturated gas.

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Rotary Vane Pumps

Dry and oil-sealed vane vacuum pumps are robust, affordable and easy in maintenance. You can use DVP vane pumps for wide range of application, for skin packaging, holding, lifting, thermoforming.

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Screw Vacuum Pumps

We have a quality range of oil-sealed screw pumps for sale that are energy efficient and have low life-cycle costs.

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We have a great range of new and hire blowers from single stage ring blower through to large lobe blowers, and we also stock the service parts for common blowers across many brands.

Our roots blowers, side channel blowers are built to last, and are backed up by our promise of excellent customer service to keep your business performing well day in and day out.

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Ash Air: Your one stop shop partner

With hundreds of years of combined experience and a broad product range, Ash Air is a great partner for your vacuum pump operations. From rotary vane pumps to screw pumps and accessories, we have a large variety of products. We also have a dedicated applications team ready to calculate the ideal pump configuration. With a global support organization, we can support your manufacturing operations wherever they may be located in New Zealand.


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Who we are and how Ash Air can help your business!

Ash Air has been around in New Zealand since 1979, and weโ€™ve grown into a nationwide company with international support and a reputation for quality and reliability.We look after all things compressed air for your business!

  • Reciprocating, Screw, air compressors
  • Vacuum pumps
  • Nitrogen
  • An extensive line of air treatment components

Ash Air's range of Chicago Pneumatic, Alup, Pneumatech, and Quincy compressors are used extensively around the world in industries ranging from oil and gas to food, automotive and farming, and we bring you these world class compressors here in the land of the long white cloud.Our technicians are compressed air equipment experts and are dedicated to addressing customer needs. Supported by a 13 locations nationwide, Ash Air offers one of the widest selections of compressed air equipment and parts available today in New Zealand.

Reliability and Efficiency

With Ash Air compressors, you can count on reliability and high performance for even the most demanding applications. We focus our efforts on the following:

  • Increasing uptime
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Read more from our #expertcorner

When it comes to laser cutting and other industrial processes, the choice of assist gas is crucial in achieving optimal results. Nitrogen and oxygen are commonly utilized as assist gases, each with its own unique properties and applications. Understanding the characteristics of both gases, will help you to make an informed decision to ensure precision, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in your operations.