Medical

U of A researcher finds never-seen mineral inside 'super-deep diamond'

U of A researcher finds never-seen mineral inside 'super-deep diamond'

Probably not a huge discovery, you may think, but this ice, names Ice-VII, is coming from the Earth's mantle and has been supposed, until now, that it only naturally exists on other planets and their moons and can only be made in a lab. Above about 400 miles beneath the Earth's surface, this elusive mineral becomes unstable.

For the first time in history, researchers were able to find a rare Earth mineral embedded in a 'super-deep diamond'. Based on the research that will be published in the journal "Nature" on March 8, the researchers have estimated that the overall quantity of this mineral of Zetta tonnes i.e. 1021 tonnes buried deep inside the Earth's mantle.

It was found unexpectedly by Graham Pearson, a professor in the University of Alberta's Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department, along with other researchers from the University of British Columbia.

Over about a billion years, it was forced deeper and deeper into the Earth.

Pearson said the calcium silicate perovskite they viewed probably grew at the same rate as the diamond and, as diamonds are the most incompressible of all natural minerals, it effectively created a protective barrier. Surprisingly, Silicate perovskite is actually considered to be our planet's fourth most abundant mineral. The mine also holds the distinction of producing the world's largest diamond in 1905.




Earth's crust and the upper part of the mantle together form the lithosphere, whose thickness ranges up to 60 kilometers below the surface, but can extend up to 200 kilometers underground, which is where most diamonds form. According to Pearson, diamonds are naturally formed stones which are both commercially valuable and have a great scientific value as it provides insights about the depth of Earth's core and the details regarding how it formed, etc.

Prevented from crystallizing under high pressure, the water froze as geological activity eventually moved the diamonds to the surface.

Pearson went on to explain how diamonds have a unique way of showcasing what is happening deep inside the Earth, adding, "The specific composition of the perovskite inclusion in this particular diamond very clearly indicates the recycling of oceanic crust into Earth's lower mantle".

"Diamonds are really unique ways of seeing what's in the Earth", Pearson said. "It provides fundamental proof of what happens to the fate of oceanic plates as they descend into the depths of the Earth".

The chunk of calcium silicate perovskite within the gemstone was visible with the naked eye after the diamond was polished, the researchers wrote, but proper analysis and imaging required an worldwide effort.


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