Aug 18, 2011 3:38 PM GMT
Professor Wuzong Zhou, Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews has discovered tiny diamond particles exist in candle flames.
His research has made a scientific leap towards solving a mystery which has befuddled people for thousands of years.
Since the first candle was invented in ancient China more than 2,000 years ago, many have longed to know what hidden secrets its flames contained.
Dr Zhou’s investigation revealed around 1.5 million diamond nanoparticles are created every second in a candle flame as it burns.
The leading academic revealed he uncovered the secret ingredient after a challenge from a fellow scientist in combustion.
Dr Zhou said: “A colleague at another university said to me: “Of course no-one knows what a candle flame is actually made of.
“I told him I believed science could explain everything eventually, so I decided to find out.”
Using a new sampling technique, assisted by his student Mr Zixue Su, he invented himself, he was able to remove particles from the centre of the flame – something never successfully achieved before – and found to his surprise that a candle flame contains all four known forms of carbon.