Never-Before-Seen Mineral Found Inside a Diamond


The fourth most abundant mineral on the planet, the calcium silicate perovskite, does not exist on the Earth's surface without its structure being destroyed since its proper environment is only inside the mantle of the Earth, at about 700 kilometers in underground. Its occurrence is expected to be mostly in the areas where the slabs of the oceanic crust have taken a dive into Earth's mantle near the tectonic boundaries.

Analysis of the diamond provided rock-hard evidence that material from the oceanic crust-which stretches just six miles below the sea-is recycled into the lower mantle, where the gem was formed. He explained the mineral is found deep inside Earth's mantle, at 700 kilometres. "Discoveries of some of these minerals in "super-deep" diamonds-formed between two hundred and about one thousand kilometers into the lower mantle-have confirmed part of this picture", the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Nature.

Graham Pearson was quoted in an American online magazine Inverse saying, "This was very special because this mineral had been theoretically predicted, but it was not thought possible to see it preserved at the Earth's surface for observation and measurement".

X-ray spectroscopy helped to investigate the diamond crystals collected on the fields in Africa, China, Zaire and Sierra Leone, and to find in them microinclusions ordinary water ice, but in a rare cubic phase of ice VII.

However, a few days ago Graham Pearson and other scientists have discovered for the mineral for the first time ever on the surface of the Earth, inside a diamond.

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Researchers have estimated that around 93 percent of the Earth's lower mantle is made up of silicate perovskites. However visual identification in a diamond is tough because it bends light - which is what makes them so attractive - so it's hard for scientists to rely on what they are seeing because it is extremely distorted, he said.

Diamonds are capable of forming deep in the Earth's mantle - sometimes as much as 400 miles beneath the crust. And the discoveries have surprised the science enthusiasts much like a recent sight of a mineral trapped within a diamond that is offering some significant evidences. While it has been produced in the laboratory using containers pressurised to tens of thousands of atmospheres, this is the first time ice-VII has been shown to exist in the natural world, officially making it a bona fide mineral. When this extreme force formed the diamond, the CaSiO3was trapped inside.

The diamond's structure managed to protect the CaSiO3 and prevented its crystal lattice from being deformed while the diamond moved to the Earth's surface.

According to the researcher, diamonds are a completely unique way to see what's inside the Earth and how it is composed of. "It provides fundamental proof of what happens to the fate of oceanic plates as they descend into the depths of the Earth", Pearson said in the statement.