ALBERTA: A Muslim student who preferred to spent summer vacations doing research at the university has discovered a new way to extract diamonds that might otherwise be destroyed by current harvesting techniques.
Hamdi Ali, 17, spent her summer at the University of Alberta through the Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology (WISEST) Summer Research Program, which aims to empower women and other underrepresented groups in science.
“The program seemed like a great opportunity to broaden my understanding of what a career in science could look like,” said Ali of the programme.
“What Hamdi discovered was pretty unique and unexpected,” Ali’s grad student mentor, Margo Regier, told a local television.
“I didn’t really know anything about geology,” Ali added. “So it was a little disconcerting when I first saw the SELFRAG and realized I was going to be working with it.”
That machine, Ali explained, is “a high-voltage electronic disaggregation device, which sounds pretty fancy, but it just means that it destroys rocks using 200,000 volts of electricity.”
It can also harvest diamonds that would otherwise be destroyed by established extraction methods, Ali soon discovered.
TO test the machine, Ali processed a piece of rock, half by the standard method and other half through the new machine.
“She found ten diamonds,” Regier said of the second method. “So what that implies is that when you use a mechanical crusher, you are actually damaging a significant number of diamonds and decreasing your total diamond yield.”
The discovery has been appreciated by the industry and
Brad Jongkind, an Edmonton-based gemologist and jewelry store owner, said Ali’s discovery has the potential to “set the world on fire” in the diamond industry. The University of Alberta is also hoping that Ali’s discovery inspires other young women to pursue scientific studies.
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