Lab-grown red diamonds with an atomic defect could one day replace GPS systems thanks to their remarkable sensitivity to magnetic waves, according to scientists at Element Six which is majority owned by De Beers. A team at the firm is exploring the remarkable properties of crystals with a so-called ‘nitrogen vacancy defect’ – a gap in the atomic lattice at the heart of the diamond, according to a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The diamonds have shown great sensitivity to magnetic waves at room temperature, and are currently able to detect a car passing 300 meters away.
“The hope is that they could one day be attuned to pinpoint their own location on the surface of the planet by reading magnetic waves from the sun. This would eliminate the need for GPS satellites, which send signals back to earth to tell cars where they are. Such a breakthrough could make driverless cars a reality, as it would allow autonomous vehicles to move safely around each other.”