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Aside from cultural implications (correct me if I'm wrong but artificial diamonds are not so hard to obtain, right?) diamonds are pure carbon and are more unstable than graphite. So, why not use diamonds as fuel?

My approach: steel melts at 1500°C at least (and there are better steel that melt at higher temperatures). It is pretty high compared with diamond combustion temperature that is just 800°C and once you get to that point combustion will generate enough energy to burn diamond itself. So you can burn it in a steel piston.

Ok, I admit 800°C is pretty high compared with paper and wood (233–400°C) but it is a clean combustion (you obtain only CO2, assuming a constant oxygen input). From this point of view hydrogen is the only competitor but it rise to 500°C, that is not little.

So, what is the practical limitation in the use of diamonds as fossil fuel?

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  • $\begingroup$ No diamonds are not rare they're extremely abundant All the diamonds are all owned by one company and that company has no competition so they make the price whatever they want. They even hold back supplies even though there's so many diamonds in this world they hold back supplies from going on the market just so I can justify their high price but no they're not rare not even slightly $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ It would be cheaper and easier to burn cash, wouldn't it? $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Feb 25 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Salvadorsaintcool see the edit to my answer. Diamonds are rare, compared to coal. Even if only 1% of mined diamond is reported, coal is still more than one million times (!) more abundant than diamond. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Feb 27 at 9:17

2 Answers 2

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  1. Diamonds are expensive. Really expensive. Even "cheap" synthetic diamonds are orders of magnitude more expensive than conventional fossil fuel. By using them as fuel, you will increase demand, thus increasing their price even more. And synthetic diamonds have to be made somehow, and you need energy for that.
  2. Diamonds burn, but they don't burn well. For example, look at this video of diamonds burning in pure oxygen. The burning sustains for about a minute after the heat source is removed, but then it stops. So then, you need to apply a constant source of heat, and this requires energy. You will probably have to put in more energy than you get from the combustion of diamonds. Kinetically, diamonds just don't burn as well as other things with carbon (like fuel or wood or coal).
  3. One of your arguments is that diamonds burn "cleanly" (let's not forget that CO2 is a pollutant as well). Burning of natural gas emits only CO2 and H2O, so it's a much better alternative when pollution is a consideration.
  4. Diamonds are so much more useful for other things. Don't waste diamonds on energy production!

edit:

Some commenters argued that diamond isn't actually rare, and the prices are artificially inflated. Maybe, but even then it doesn't make any sense. Every year, 26 tons of diamond are mined. Even if there's a conspiracy, and mining companies actually ten times more at 260 tons per year, this amount is absolutely dwarfed by the 7 billion tons of coal produced annually. Even if you're burning every single diamond produced, this will be absolutely negligible compared to the amount of coal (and other fossil fuels) currently used as fuels.

Don't forget about grade. Coal seams are close to pure carbon. Let's take for example 85% combustible material in a rock. Then you're getting 850 kg of carbon in one ton of rock. Diamond grade is much lower. If you're extremely lucky, you can get about 70 grams of diamond in one ton of rock. Most often you're getting less than 1 gram per ton of diamond. So unlike coal which can be burnt as mined, diamond has to be separated from its host rock. This adds yet another time consuming and costly process in order to produce diamond raw material which is less suitable for combustion relative to its chemically identical coal.

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  • $\begingroup$ You haven't addressed the possibility that the 'scarcity' of natural diamonds is artificial (e.g. Salvador's comment to OP). All the stuff about artificial diamonds is irrelevant if there are enough natural ones. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Feb 26 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer - That's not the question, so the answer doesn't need to address it. If you want that hypothesis addressed, you should ask a question about it. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Feb 27 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer I have now - see edit. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Feb 27 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Complete answers are better than incomplete answers. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Feb 27 at 14:38
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Scarcity is the biggest limit, diamonds burn much like coal but unlike coal they are extremely rare.

artificial diamonds would still cost vastly more to make than digging up coal.

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