What: Perfect single-crystal diamonds of more than two carats
(the average engagement ring is less than a carat) churned out in a day. Scientists create the gemstones using a process called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), which grows diamond crystals one carbon atom at a time.
Why: The jewelry industry has shown great interest in ersatz versions of the 45-carat Hope diamond, but other uses could prove more lucrative. Using CVD, scientists will be able to cheaply mass-produce diamond semiconductors that are hundreds of times as powerful as their silicon counterparts.
Who: Russell Hemley of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and researchers at Apollo Diamond, Inc., in Boston, have produced the largest and some of the most flawless diamonds so far. And Europe´s Carbon Power Electronics consortium, led by Dutch diamond maker Element Six, has created a synthetic diamond diode, the first step toward working diamond semiconductors.
When: During the past year, scientists have mastered the ability to grow 10-carat single crystals with a color and clarity that surpass mined diamonds. Within a decade, they´ll also be cheaper. Expect to see the first diamond semiconductors hit the market in 2011.