It's no surprise that the diamond industry is willing to spend whatever it takes to make the process of mining precious gems even more profitable. And while it already relies on X-ray technology for spotting diamonds on the surface of mined ore, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute's Development Center for X-ray Technology EZRT have developed a way to now spot them buried inside rocks.
The new process actually involves blasting chunks of kimberlite ore—where diamonds are most often found—a couple of times with X-rays from two different spectrums. This produces two distinct images of the same area that are then analyzed using a special algorithm developed by the EZRT. The newly developed technique is able to accurately spot diamonds buried in a piece of ore as small as just a few millimeters in length.
Once the new technology is perfected, the researchers hope to integrate it into an automated system that can X-ray and analyze kimberlite ore as it's moving along a conveyor belt at an impressive speed of about ten feet per second. Knowing which pieces of ore need to be further processed to reveal their treasures, and which can be ignored, will help streamline mining operations and reduce costs. But rest assured diamonds will still stay expensive. [Fraunhofer]