Techniques, applications and future prospects of diamond anvil cells for studying supercritical water systems

Richard L. Smith, Zhen Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


In this review, diamond anvil type cells (DACs) are reviewed as a method for studying supercritical water systems. The hydrothermal DAC provides easy and safe experimental access to high pressure (30-3000 MPa) and high temperature (400-800 °C) regions and the device allows exploration of supercritical systems at high density (400-1200 kg/m3), which is usually difficult or costly with batch or flow systems. In the first part of this review, characteristics of DACs regarding anvil type, DAC type, anvil alignment, heating, analytical methods, pressure and temperature determination, gasket, loading, physical size are discussed with emphasis on DACs that can be used to generate conditions of interest for understanding supercritical water systems. In the second part of this review, applications and key findings of studies on supercritical water systems from geology, chemical, biomass, energy, environmental, polymer, and materials related fields are discussed. Some of the key findings determined with DAC are related to the dissolution or existence of phases at conditions of high temperature and high pressure, however, DAC has been used in many quantitative studies to determine fundamental properties such as speeds of sound, phase behavior, solubilities, partition coefficients and viscosities. Future prospects for DAC as a method for exploring supercritical water systems include combination of DAC with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) for studying nanostructures, use of high-speed streak cameras to study high-speed reactions, combustions, and energetic materials, use of time-dependent loads to study kinetics, precipitation and crystallization phenomena, the use of DAC with synchrotron radiation to follow reaction and material processes in situ, and the many modifications that can be made to DAC anvils and rapid heating methods such as lasers and masers used in conjunction with in situ techniques. The DAC is a highly versatile instrument and should find widespread use in studying supercritical water systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-446
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Supercritical Fluids
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan


  • Diamond anvil cell
  • High-pressure
  • Hydrothermal
  • Microreactor
  • Review
  • Supercritical water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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