Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) will be provided a grant of Rs. 242 Crore over a period of five years to undertake research on Lab Grown Diamonds (LGD). This research will be focused on driving indigenization of the LGD manufacturing process.
Presenting the Budget 2023 on Wednesday (1st Feb 2023), Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister, Government of India, said, “Lab grown Diamonds (LGD) is a technology and innovation-driven emerging sector with high employment potential. These environment-friendly diamonds have optically and chemically the same properties as natural diamonds. To encourage indigenous production of LGD seeds and machines and to reduce import dependency, a research and development grant will be provided to one of the IITs for five years.”
As per a recommendation made by Department of Commerce, the research grant of Rs. 242 crore over a period of five years to IIT Madras has been approved.
Thanking the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “This is indeed the right time to set up a diamond factory in India, given that diamonds have thermal and electrical properties making it superior to contemporary technologies like silicon, silicon carbide and gallium nitride. IIT Madras will work towards producing diamond wafers suitable for electronic applications. It is a historic moment for IIT Madras for being selected for implementation of such an important project, output of which will be a crucial component of Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
The research grants will go towards various departments and research groups of the Institute that are involved in this field. IIT Madras has a rich history of undertaking cutting-edge and translational research with significant applications in industry and society.
Elaborating on the work that would be taken up under this initiative, Prof. MS Ramachandra Rao, Department of Physics, IIT Madras, who will be the Principal Investigator for this initiative, said, “The India Centre for Lab Grown Diamonds (InCent-LGD) at IIT Madr as was identified for this prestigious project based on our nearly two decades of work experience in diamond research wherein we have developed many technologies for industry, space and defence sectors. We are honoured to contribute to the initiatives of the Government of India to boost Research and Development efforts in Diamond growth to make India #1 country in producing good quality diamond crystals.”
Further, Prof. MS Ramachandra Rao, also the faculty-lead of MSRC (Materials Science Research Centre), NFMTC (Nano-Functional Materials Technology Centre) and QuCenDiEM (Quantum Centre for Diamond and Emergent Materials) at IIT Madras added, “The growing demand for lab-grown diamonds requires dedicated research to realise not only gem-quality diamonds but also to realise a plethora of electronic applications (5G/6G, magnetometry, thermal management, sensors and quantum technologies). The science and technology of diamond growth processes are complicated to understand, and most of the machines, especially HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature), are imported in India. Moreover, the reactor manufacturers do not provide recipes to realise single crystal diamonds.”
The global diamond market demands bigger and high pure lab-grown diamond crystals for commercial and electronic applications. There is a need for research and development to conduct systematic studies to optimize the process parameters to grow high pure large-volume and scalable diamond crystals, which will help India to become the world leader in lab-grown diamonds.
The Core faculty from Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering departments of IIT Madras also have a good number of core researchers with expertise in various requirements listed above The upcoming centre will also recruit a good number of additional man-power to run the research on LGD that would be established at the IIT Madras Research Park and IIT Madras laboratories.
India has no know-how in high pressure high temperature (HPHT) technology to grow and treat diamond crystals. The cogst involved in importing HPHT machines is very high. Therefore, there is a need for developing indigenously built HPHT equipment and establishing the process know-how of HPHT diamond growth. On the other hand, CVD reactor manufacturers in India import critical components like microwave generators, vacuum pumps, and sensors. Even good-quality diamond seeds are imported.
There is a need for indigenously developing these critical components, technologies and seed substrates (mother-seed) to make India self-sustainable in the lab-grown diamond sector. This is the requirement that the IIT Madras Research Group headed out to tackle.
Over the years, the Center for Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research at IIT Madras has undertaken sponsored projects with a sanctioned value of more than Rs. 2,888 Crore and executed consultancy projects valued at Rs. 1,514 Crore.
The Institute was also awarded the National Intellectual Property Award for 2021 and 2022.