The Science of Cremation and Memorial Diamond Formation


Hey it’s Professor Dave, let’s talk about
cremation. When someone passes away, they have the right
to specify how they would prefer their remains to be dealt with. One obvious choice is to be buried in a cemetery,
or some other location, something that humans have been doing for thousands of years. More recently, people have had the option
of donating their body to science, helping to train doctors and surgeons, or potentially
aiding in the discovery of a cure to some disease. But a third option that is rather popular
involves flame cremation. This is where the deceased is placed in a
large heating chamber, and reduced to pulverized bone fragments, which we call ashes. How does cremation work? What exactly are ashes comprised of? What can one do with the ashes once they are formed? Let’s answer all of these questions as we
get a closer look at the science of cremation. As we said, cremation involves placing the
deceased in fire. This is not a new practice, humans have burned
the dead on wooden funeral pyres for ages. But this process has become much more sophisticated
in modern times. We now use specialized furnaces called cremators,
which are fueled by natural gas or propane, and the resulting fire reaches temperatures
above 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures are possible due to
the insulation offered by the cremator, often made of a heat-resistant bricklike material. The whole process can be operated digitally,
so as to have total control over all aspects. The body enters the cremator in something
called an alternative container, which will quickly cremate and leave little ash behind. But the body will be a different story. The human body is made of lots of water, many
different carbon-based compounds, known as organic compounds, and lots of bone, which
is a connective tissue that contains inorganic material, mainly calcium salts, in addition
to organic material. When exposed to the fire, most of the tissues
and organs making up the body will vaporize, forming gases that are released through an
exhaust system. The same can be said for all the water in
the body. But fragments of bone will remain after the
cremation is complete, generally taking about two hours, after which the bone fragments
are allowed to cool. They are then swept out and passed through
a magnetic field to extract any metal particles that may remain. And then the bone fragments are crushed into
a powder to produce the final product, which we call a person’s ashes, about five pounds
of grayish powder on average. So what exactly is in these ashes? Given that the majority of the components
of the body have been vaporized, most of what remains used to be components of the skeleton,
which means a lot of carbonates and calcium phosphate, along with trace amounts of other elements. There will be slight variance from person
to person, but the ashes will inevitably reflect the composition of the human skeleton to a
large degree. Now what can be done with the ashes of a loved one? Some people choose to place them in an urn
and display them in the home somewhere. Many request that their ashes be scattered
in a particular place that held special meaning to them, like a lake or a mountain. But an additional fascinating option has been
developed by companies such as Eterneva, and that is to form a diamond using the remains. Diamonds are made of carbon, as diamond is
an allotrope of carbon. Allotropes are different forms that an element
can take, which means that carbon atoms can come together to form a network solid in different ways. Allotropes of carbon include coal, graphite,
and even exotic materials like buckyballs and carbon nanontubes. But carbon atoms can also form diamond under
the right conditions. Now we did mention that the majority of the
organic matter in the body is vaporized during cremation, but nevertheless some carbon does
remain, largely from the carbonates we previously mentioned that are present in bone, and this
carbon comprises between 1 and 4 percent of the total mass of the ashes. However, we can’t make diamonds out of carbonates,
we need elemental carbon, or carbon all by itself, so the carbonates have to be decomposed
using a high-heat reduction process in absence of oxygen, in order to get carbon in the form
of graphite, without losing any carbon through the production of carbon dioxide in the process. This graphite is then superheated again to
get rid of any impurities, leaving graphite that is 99.995 percent pure carbon. Then from this graphite, high pressure high
temperature technology, or HPHT, is used to simulate the crushing conditions of natural
diamond growth deep within earth’s crust, in order to convert this carbon from graphite
into the diamond allotrope. Huge pressures of around 870,000 psi and temperatures
above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit are applied to mimic this astounding natural process,
which forces flat sheets of graphite to adopt the three-dimensional tetrahedral lattice
of a diamond, thereby attaining the strength and rigidity characteristic of this allotrope. Apart from a small seed diamond the size of
a grain of sand, which functions as the starting point for diamond formation, a metal alloy
that acts as a solvent, and the addition of generic carbon to help grow larger diamonds,
the end result is a diamond containing a significant proportion of carbon atoms that were present
in the body of the deceased person at the time of death, making this a unique way to
preserve the memory of a loved one.

29 Comments

  1. Ayad Ali said:

    First!

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  2. Abhishek Ranjan said:

    Creamation is common in india

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  3. TheVidley said:

    Nice video, but why are the metal particles removed from the ashes?

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  4. Jamie Spenser Thompson said:

    You could turn it into a graphene angel that would float in air?

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  5. HazeWulfDemonic said:

    Very interesting. I'm most likely going to be cremated. Probably won't be turned into a Diamond though.

    My brother wants his body to be placed in the woods to be eaten, to give the energy he has used throughout his life back. Which is great, but I don't know if that's even legally possible. Even if it was in his will, I doubt the authorities would let us do that. We have 9.6 acres of woods up in North Florida, but I think the only thing that would get him is the ants. I haven't seen any large predators up there yet, but hear there might be bears around, but not entirely sure.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  6. A4 22% said:

    this was awesome.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  7. Paul said:

    Turn into a diamond, what a waste of resources, wasteful and pollution.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  8. Ian Finnimore said:

    New marketing campaign: "Diamonds that people are dying to get" /s

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  9. Farhan Ahmed said:

    PROFESSOR I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  10. vegatronld said:

    Did not know that was possible!
    Cool!

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  11. HuggieBear39 said:

    That is so awesome. I could become the diamond my girlfriends finger.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  12. Dute Nait said:

    I want to be turned into Nanotubes and either used in an usefull Spaceaplication (Spaceelevator, Solarpanals or quantum computer) or as a medium for artist i.e. Vantablack or as tiny pubes in an micro sculpture.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  13. David Emery said:

    How big is the resulting diamond?

    I tried to donate my body to science, but it was sent back with a note that said, "Only human bodies."

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  14. JohnEveryman said:

    How large would such a diamond be?

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  15. 2AHD Cat said:

    I'm going for option #4 (being turned into Mc Donald's burger patties) lol 😉

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  16. jbirdmax said:

    WOWED!
    This is so amazing! I wonder if I can pre-pay to have this done with my fat ass upon kicking the bucket?

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  17. In science We trust said:

    Excellent video as always.

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  18. SteamHunter said:

    Do you have videos for Maxwell's equations, Laplace operator?

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  19. CambridgeMart said:

    I've never seen coal described as an allotrope of carbon, it's essentially graphite

    February 12, 2020
    Reply
  20. The Ultimate Reductionist said:

    When you donate your body to science, most of it gets cremated anyway.
    That's what happened with my dad. I will donate my body to science.
    I don't want cremation only because it will be my one last act of NOT sending more carbon into the air!

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  21. The Ultimate Reductionist said:

    Don't forget a bunch of metal joints! That's what MY cremated body will leave behind!

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  22. The Ultimate Reductionist said:

    So you're literally removing all the oxygen & calcium atoms in the carbonates of the person's ashes & keeping JUST their individual carbon atoms & crushing THOSE into diamond?
    Really seems rather silly purpose: those carbon atoms are in no way arranged the way they were when they were part of the human: though the technology to do this is amazing.

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  23. The Voice of Literature said:

    Great video. Didn't know about this by any means but now having watched this, one certainly walks out a wiser person! Thanks professor.

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  24. Richard Wiersma said:

    What is more un-christian, cremation or donating your de-souled body to science?

    Excuse me for my strange English
    Ah, whatever, I don't care. So no excuses🤤

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  25. Kx RV66 said:

    Recently lost my Mom and she was cremated. I didn’t know about this option.

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  26. J0ermungand said:

    Maybe another century down the line we can then use that diamond to store a copy of the deceased consciousness as data in the crystal structure of said diamond and run it as a simulation on special occasions such as christmas.

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  27. Entangled Mindcells said:

    The web add that played before this was a wedding registry app.. with a woman showing off her diamon engagement ring. priceless

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  28. Dayron said:

    Are you planning to make some videos on geography?

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
  29. Thaumius said:

    Is it expensive to make memorial diamonds?

    February 14, 2020
    Reply

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