New Mineral Discovered From Earth’s Mantle – Locked Away In Rare Diamonds

Image source: Daily Mail

Scientists have recently found evidence of a new mineral inside a diamond. This mineral had never been seen before this discovery.

As it is sometimes the case with the most surprising discoveries, this one happened by chance. The name of the mineral in question is calcium silicate perovskite. The scientist who found it had no idea they would.

The reason for this is that calcium silicate perovskite had never before been kept stable on the planet’s surface. This is the first time they have been able to. This mineral is forged in the Earth’s belly and whenever it comes up to the surface its carbon bonds become rearranged due to the reduction of pressure that takes place.

This marks the first time that scientists have been able to observe calcium silicate perovskite at Earth’s surface.

According to Professor Graham Pearson of the University of Alberta in Canada, this mineral had sometimes been observed in other diamonds, in what is known as medium pressure form. But never before had scientists been able to observe it in the same state as it has when it is hundreds of miles under the ground.

Diamonds

Usually, the carbon bonds of diamonds are difficult to separate and then rearrange. But this is not the case with calcium silicate perovskite.

It’s not that diamonds are a girl’s best friend who are your diamonds. It’s your best friends who are supremely resilient, made under pressure and of astonishing value. They’re everlasting, they can cut glass if they need to. – Gina Barreca

But diamonds may very well be the right place to see minerals that we would not have access to otherwise. So far, the discoveries have been made almost by chance but discoveries such as this one may mean more research and diamond mining for scientific purposes in the future.

How Was The Finding Made

The research, whose findings were published by the scientific journal Nature (more details at the end of this article), was conducted by a team of scientists for different universities from the English-speaking world: the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa.

According to Professor Pearson from Canada, they never expected to find this mineral in the state it was. The scientists were studying diamonds in the Cullinan Mine in South Africa.

This South African mine is famous for having been the source of the British Crown jewels and other huge diamonds. Now it will also be known as the site where this mineral was found.

Image source: The Court Jeweller

The surprising fact about this finding is that the diamond that contained the calcium silicate perovskite was located only about a mile beneath the Earth’s surface when it would have, according to the study published by Nature, been originated more than 400 miles beneath the surface.

Diamonds, such as the ones on the British Crown jewels or the ones normally used in jewelry making, are usually found within 100 miles beneath the surface. But calcium silicate perovskite needs to be kept under the pressure of about 240,000 Earth atmospheres.

Before seeing it for themselves, these scientists had an image of what this mineral would look like, but they had never been able to see it with their own eyes, let alone hold the material in the hands. It is impossible for human beings to go that far into beneath the Earth’s surface as we cannot withstand such an amount of pressure. The last thing that these scientists expected was to find this mineral within human reach, so close to the Earth’s surface.

Is This an Important Discovery?

This finding in South Africa is not just important merely because it allows scientists to observe calcium silicate perovskite for the first time.

The main reason that this finding is so important for scientists is because it will allow them to better understand the carbon cycles that take place between the Earth’s core and its surface, and back again. In other words, the carbon cycles that happen in volcanoes and other similar geological activities.

According to Professor Pearson, calcium silicate perovskite began as ocean crust on the surface, and then through subduction, it gets to the Earth’s mantle and below where it is exposed to increasingly higher pressures.

What is Inside a Diamond?

This finding is not the first time that a mineral has been found inside a diamond.

Image source: Newsweek

A team of geologists that also included Professor Pearson found evidence of a mineral called ringwoodite back in 2014. At that time the team was mining for diamonds in Brazil. Ringwoodite is a mineral rich in water (around 1.5 percent of the mineral is water), which according to scientists could mean that there are large reservoirs of water below the Earth’s surface, what is known as the transition zone and the lower mantle.

What the finding of ringwoodite back in 2014 and calcium silicate perovskite more recently indicates is that more research in diamonds, particularly more mining is a well worth pursuing.

Right now, Professor Pearson and his team as working hard to determine the age of the diamond they found in South Africa. So far, the estimates they have made do not narrow its possible age beyond a range that would encompass anything between a billion years or “quite young”.

The Study

Professor Pearson is one of the co-authors of the scientific paper entitled “CaSiO3 Perovskite in Diamond Indicates the Recycling of Oceanic Crust into the Lower Mantle”, recently published by Nature.

The other authors are, Fabrizio Nestola from the University of Padova in Italy, Nester Korolev from the University of British Columbia in Canada, Maya Kopylova from the University of British Columbia in Canada, Marco Rotiroti from the University of Milan in Italy, Martha .G. Pamato from the University College London in the United Kingdom, Matteo Alvaro from the University of Pavia in Italy, Luca Peruzzo from UC Berkeley in the United States , J.J. Gurney from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Andy E.Moore from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and John Davidson from Durham university in the United Kingdom.

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1 Comment

  • I’m honored to be quoted in ScienceTrends and would simply like to correct the line above: “It’s not that diamonds are a girl’s best friend but that your best friends are your diamonds.” Thanks! Dr. Gina Barreca, University of Connecticut

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