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Turning Bullets Into Diamonds

A mysterious Russian company is taking old ammunition and turning it into nanodiamonds. You can’t make a ring out of these tiny rocks, but they do have endless applications in a lot of tech—many more applications than bullets, which only can kill people.

It’s rarely a good thing when humanity is rewarded for using tools of war, but Igor Petrov has at least found a way to make the best of the tools that already exist. Petrov’s company, SKN, won this year’s Ig Nobel Peace Prize (given to "achievements that first make people laugh
then make them think") for its work converting old Russian ammunition into diamonds.

We had trouble getting in touch with Petrov and his English language website isn’t translated from Russian particularly well, but here’s what we do know: Petrov claims to have developed a method to turn ammunition into nanodiamonds—diamonds that are so tiny they can be measured in nanometers. The nanodiamonds don’t look like the shiny rocks you might think of; their small size makes them appear as a powder.

Petrov jokingly explained the diamond-making process at the Ig Nobel award ceremony: "What we do is simple. First, we look for the military, take their ammunition, explode it, and then take out the diamonds."

According to Petrov’s website, the diamond-making process involves blowing up the ammunition in a chamber, sorting out the resulting mixture (graphite, gases, metals, etc.) and refining to get at the nanodiamonds. SKN’s method is being patented in the U.S, the EU and Russia.

Nanodiamonds are being researched for a number of applications, including laundry detergent (they can double effectiveness), chemotherapy, and computer circuitry. And SKN is far from the only company working on nanodiamond production—no surprise since their potential uses are so varied and valuable.

But taking war relics and turning them into cancer-fighting nanodiamonds? That’s worthy of a peace prize.