Be-dazzle my Fighter Jet

Apollo Diamond
Photo: jurvetson

Nevermind the economic meltdown, soon our fighter jets might be decked with no less than precious gemstones.

The U.S. Air Force is considering packing 80 carats worth of diamonds on the windows of a new generation of aircrafts.

No, the military is not trying to show off.

The new jets will carry high-powered microwave (HPM) emitters. These weapons are capable of destroying enemy electrical systems without a single scratch or boom. Those targets hit will simply stop working and drop out of the skies -- scary thought.

Without the protection of the right material though, these emitters would also make a big ol' hole on the side of the planes carrying them.

Talk about a first-class security system!

We all know that diamonds have qualities that are hard to match: no other material is harder, tougher or has higher thermal conductivity.

These properties have landed man-made diamonds in high-quality loudspeakers and cutting tools for granite and marble.

Those in the know have been talking about the advent of the Diamond Age for a few years now.

In fact, the companies that are vying to make the jets' fancy new windows have been studying the use of diamonds for quite a while.

Take Apollo Diamond, for example. The well-guarded Massachusetts-based company holds the record of creating the largest synthetic diamond. Just like its competitors, Apollo is working hard on mass producing the "ultimate semiconductors" out of diamonds. But in order for the use of diamonds to surpass that of silicon in the semiconductor industry, the diamond makers have to come up with cheaper ways of producing them.

In the meantime, Apollo hopes that the technique first developed in its founder's garage more than 10 years ago, a modified version of Chemical Vapor Deposition, will be well worth the Air Force's time and money.

Yes, we will have to wait close to a decade for these diamond windows. Perhaps by then we'll be able to afford them.


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