IIT Madras gets ₹242-Cr for research on lab-grown diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically the same as those found beneath the earth’s surface.

New Delhi | Updated: 03 February, 2023 1:42 pm IST
At present, India imports a number of critical components & high quality seeds for making lab grown diamonds.

The Modi government will provide a grant of ₹242 crores to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT), Madras for research on lab-grown diamonds (LGD), which are manufactured using technology that replicates the natural diamond growing process.

This research will be focused on driving indigenization of the LGD manufacturing process, said officials at IIT Madras.

In her Budget speech in parliament, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the 5-year research grant to encourage the indigenous production of lab-grown diamonds.

“Lab-grown diamonds are a technology-and innovation-driven emerging sector with high employment potential. These environment-friendly diamonds which have optically and chemically the same properties as natural diamonds,” she said on February 1.

She further said, “To encourage indigenous production of LGD seeds and machines and to reduce import dependency, a research and development grant will be provided to one of the IITs for five years.”

Lab-grown diamonds are chemically, physically, and optically the same as those found beneath the earth’s surface.

In line with the announcement, the Central government has approved the research grant based on a recommendation made by the Department of Commerce.

“This is indeed the right time to set up a diamond factory in India, given that diamonds have thermal and electrical properties making them superior to contemporary technologies like silicon, silicon carbide and gallium nitride,” said IIT-M director Prof V Kamakoti.

The director further said that the premier institute will work towards producing diamond wafers suitable for electronic applications. “It is a historic moment for IIT Madras for being selected for implementation of such an important project, the output of which will be a crucial component of Atmanirbhar Bharat.”

The research grants will go towards various departments and research groups of the institute involved in this field.

“The India Centre for Lab Grown Diamonds (InCent-LGD) at IIT Madras was identified for this prestigious project based on our nearly two decades of work experience in diamond research wherein we have developed many technologies for industry, space and defence sectors,” said IIT-M’s Prof. MS Ramachandra Rao, who will be the principal investigator for the initiative.

Prof. Rao is serving as faculty lead at IIT-M’s Materials Science Research Centre, Nano-Functional Materials Technology Centre and Quantum Centre for Diamond and Emergent Materials.

Growing demand for lab-grown diamonds requires dedicated research to realise not only gem-quality diamonds but also to realise a plethora of electronic applications like 5G/6G, magnetometry, thermal management, sensors and quantum technologies, he said.

“The science and technology of diamond growth processes are complicated to understand, and most of the machines, especially HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature), are imported in India. Moreover, the reactor manufacturers do not provide recipes to realise single crystal diamonds,” opined Prof. Rao.

Researchers at IIT-M will conduct systematic studies to optimize the process parameters to grow highly pure large-volume and scalable diamond crystals, which will help India to become the world leader in lab-grown diamonds.

India has no know-how in high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) technology to grow and treat diamond crystals and the cost involved in importing HPHT machines is very high. At present, India imports critical components like microwave generators, vacuum pumps, and sensors for CVD reactors. Good-quality diamond seeds are also imported.

To tackle this challenge, researchers will develop indigenous HPHT equipment and establish the process know-how of HPHT diamond growth, and also try to develop these critical components.

“Over the years, the Center for Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research at IIT Madras has undertaken sponsored projects with a sanctioned value of more than ₹2,888 crores and executed consultancy projects valued at ₹1,514 crores,” the institute said.

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