At the intersection of hydrogen, methane, microwaves, and 800 degrees Celsius, a tiny diamond is born. The ultrapure, transparent crystal enters the world in an explosion of color, driven by an energetic plasma of ionized gases pictured here.
This image gives a beautiful glimpse into the out-of-equilibrium processes that drive homoepitaxial diamond thin film growth. A reactive purple plasma hovers over the glowing substrate holder inside the chamber of a chemical vapor deposition system. As the plasma hovers, carbon atoms slowly accumulate on a diamond sample surface and build up the crystal at a rate of nanometers per hour. This slow but powerful growth process creates pristine single crystals for research in quantum science.