This Tiny Diamond Contains a Mineral That's Never Been Seen Before

Super-deep diamond provides first evidence in nature of Earth's fourth most abundant mineral, indicating the very deep recycling of oceanic crust

For The First Time Ever, We've Found a Deep-Earth Mineral Inside a 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.

Calcium silicate perovskite is one of the Earth's most abundant minerals, but it has never been found at the surface, until now.

Subtle variations in its chemical composition tells scientists the mineral, which was brought up from a depth of about 800 km in a diamond mine in South Africa, actually started its life on the sea floor as a piece of oceanic crust, he said.

Previous work has shown that ice-VII can be synthesized in the lab, but the new study revealed that small amounts of the material can also form naturally here on Earth, thanks to the peculiar properties of diamonds.

"The diamond lattice doesn't relax much, so the volume of the inclusion remains nearly constant whether it's in the Earth's mantle or in your hand", said Oliver Tschauner, a professor of geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. However, this remained only a theory up until now.

Scientists believe that while the diamonds were forming, they must have encapsulated some liquid water from the crust's transition zone where minerals seem to be more soluble.

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The rare Earth mineral embedded in the diamond measures only 0.031 millimeters across. Although the availability of such mineral at such depths was theorized, scientists never observed it at the Earth's surface. The research team behind the discovery didn't set out to find a new form of ice, but it turns out that at least a few diamonds harbor ice-VII - ice that is around one and a half times as dense as the ice we're used to, and boasting a different crystalline structure in atoms as well.

George Rossman, a mineralogist at Caltech who also worked on the study, explained that "Usually the extremely deep minerals that come up to the surface are not stable once they experience low pressures..."

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.

"Diamonds are really unique ways of seeing what's in the Earth", said Pearson. "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.

The researchers polished the diamond and conducted spectroscopic analysis to confirm that the mineral inside it is indeed the perovskite.

According to the researcher, diamonds are a completely unique way to see what's inside the Earth and how it is composed of. So much so that it's thought to be the fourth most abundant mineral present inside the Earth.

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