Kentucky Advanced Materials Manufacturing is establishing a facility to mine diamonds above ground in Louisville, Kentucky. The company is partnering with the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy to implement a pilot plant/demonstration facility.
“Diamond is an advanced material with superlative properties making it the best choice for many technological applications including those that enable connection of renewables to the grid,” explains Dr. Mahendra Sunkara, Professor of Chemical Engineering/Director of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy.
This initial facility is meant to serve as the foundation of a billion-dollar worldwide effort to grow large diamond stones for a myriad of applications, including gems, officials said. KAMM is the first to establish such capabilities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and one of only a handful of global players in this highly advanced field.
The Conn Center at the University of Louisville has conducted research on lab grown diamonds since 1997 and has a large interest in advanced materials, like diamond, for both power devices and biosensors. KAMM’s founder, Vikram M. Shah, searched out The Conn Center as a U.S. partner in pilot plant/demonstration facility. KAMM’s current facility is already producing around 1000 carats of diamond per month.
A long-term home for the large production facilities is still to be determined, officials noted. “We are exploring the USA to see where we can settle,” says Shah. “Our priority is Kentucky because of our great relationship with the Conn Center, but we are looking at various options.” KAMM is a subsidiary of Da Vinci holdings, a global organization with existing operations spanning the entire diamond industry from jewelry manufacturing (cutting/polishing) to trading and distribution. In addition to KAMM, Da Vinci has also operated a diamond growing operation in India for the past decade and is currently establishing a similar operation in Limburg, Belgium. Shah is also founder and owner of Da Vinci holdings.
Currently, most diamonds are extracted from mines around the world and sent for cutting and polishing in India and Israel. KAMM said it is producing the highest purity (category IIa or better) diamonds, which are prized for both gem applications (for their clarity and brilliance) as well as industrial applications (for their superior hardness, thermal conductivity and electrical/optical properties). Only 2% of mined diamonds fall into the IIa category. KAMM’s Kentucky plant will produce diamonds which will then be cut, polished and distributed in a similar manner to mined diamonds.
“Diamond is an advanced material with superlative properties making it the best choice for many technological applications including those that enable connection of renewables to the grid,” explains Dr. Mahendra Sunkara, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville. He further adds “the availability of diamond wafers can make innovation possible with next generation renewable energy and biosensors.”
Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, president of University of Louisville, says “attracting high tech research and manufacturing companies is critical to the success of UofL, an economic engine for the city and the commonwealth. As the university enhances the business ecosystem through innovative research-based engagements, like this one, we also lay a foundation for increased economic impact. This partnership will drive more and more companies and startups to look to UofL and Louisville as the global intellectual capital of high-tech manufacturing.”