In a diamond anvil cell, a sample is pressurized by squeezing between two gem-quality diamonds. The sample is held within a small hole (typically 300 microns or less in diameter) within a thin steel sheet. Extreme pressures (1-300 GPa) can be readily achieved by using the diamond anvil cell. Since diamond is transparent across a large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, we can use almost all solid-state analytical techniques for in situ high-pressure study. The primary techniques we are currently using are optical spectroscopy (Raman and Brillouin scattering) and x-ray diffraction using the highest intensity synchrotron x-ray sources available in the world.
The two diamonds are contained within a piston-cylinder device. Many different designs are available depending on the needs of a particular experiment. Our former department machinist, George Rose, made our diamond cells.