Methods of synthesizing a diamond material, particularly nanocrystalline diamond, diamond-like carbon and bucky diamond are provided. In particular embodiments, a composition including a carbon source, such as coal, is subjected to addition of energy, such as high energy reactive milling, producing a milling product enriched in hydrogenated tetrahedral amorphous diamond-like carbon compared to the coal. A milling product is treated with heat, acid and/or base to produce nanocrystalline diamond and/or crystalline diamond-like carbon. Energy is added to produced crystalline diamond-like carbon in particular embodiments to produce bucky diamonds.
Research carried out in connection with this invention is supported in part by Department of Energy Grant No. DEFC2603NT41874. Accordingly, the United States government may have certain rights in the invention.