Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Diamond particles discovered in candle flames

Image caption The way a candle flame burns had not been fully understood until now

Candle flames contain millions of tiny diamond particles, a university professor has discovered.

Dr Wuzong Zhou, of St Andrews University, found about 1.5 million diamond nanoparticles are created in a candle flame every second it burns.

The diamond particles are burned away in the process.

But the chemistry professor said the discovery could lead to research into how diamonds could be created more cheaply.

Dr Zhou used a new sampling technique to remove particles from the centre of the flame, which is believed to have never been done, and found it contained all four known forms of carbon.

He said: "This was a surprise, because each form is usually created under different conditions.

"This will change the way we view a candle flame forever."

The first candle is said to have been invented in China more than 2,000 years ago.

Previous research has shown hydro-carbon molecules at the bottom of the flame are converted into carbon dioxide by the top of the flame.

But, until now, the process in between has remained a mystery, with the discovery of the diamond nanoparticles, as well as fullerenic particles and graphitic and amorphous carbon.