A red ruby, before and after its time in the microwave. Photo by Subhashree Swain/Applied Physics A
BHUBANESWAR, India, March 2 (UPI) -- Scientists at the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology have discovered a new way to improve the color, clarity and radiance of red rubies: simply zap them in the microwave.
Researchers have previously studied a variety of treatment methods for gemstones, involving heat and chemicals, but this is the first time a microwave oven has been used.
Rubies collected in Sinapali, Odisha, a state in eastern India, were treated in a basic microwave for several minutes at 1500 degrees Celsius. They were then compared to untreated rubies using a variety of advanced imaging technologies, including X-ray diffraction, ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, fluorescence spectrophotometry, Raman spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.
The microwaved gems changed from reddish black to light pink, with improved clarity. Scientists believe the change in appearance is caused by the microwave energy's affects on chromium, iron and titanium elements.
The microwaved rubies also featured fewer structural defects and impurities, which scientists credit to changes in the rubies' atomic design and crystal structure.
Researchers published their findings in the journal Applied Physics A.
"Microwave heating, an unconventional method of fast thermal excitation, produces new results in gemstone like ruby," lead study author Subhashree Swain said in a news release. "The study provides a new vista for future workers in the area."
Swain says microwave treatments are less energy-intensive than current gem treatment methods, making the process more economical and environmentally friendly.