Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

Scientists have Discovered a Never-Seen-Before Mineral from the Earth's Mantel

Scientists have Discovered a Never-Seen-Before Mineral from the Earth's Mantel

Later, it was found that the only way to carry the mineral to the surface for research purposes is if it is trapped in an unyielding container like a diamond.

Water crystals found inside diamonds that formed deep below the Earth's surface provide the first evidence that there is liquid water deep in the Earth's mantle.

"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.

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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.

A super-deep diamond from the Cullinan Mine, similar to the one that was found trapping calcium silicate perovskite. "The specific composition of the perovskite inclusion in this particular diamond very clearly indicates the recycling of oceanic crust into Earth's lower mantle". The perovskite diamond was found less than a kilometer below Earth's surface.

"It's really only through the unique physical properties of diamond that this sample has been preserved at all". Usually, diamonds form due to the effect of heat and pressure at depths of 150-200 kilometers, but diamonds formed at much lower depths are occasionally found, providing invaluable clues into our planet's interior. "It provides fundamental proof of what happens to the fate of oceanic plates as they descend into the depths of the Earth". What is unique about diamonds is that the material trapped inside remains at the same pressure that it originally saw when it was formed into an inclusion, and this allowed us to see a diamond with ice-VII trapped inside as diamonds were pushed up to the surface.

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Even though it was previously thought that slabs of Earth's crust sink into the planet's hot interior below bone dry, they could still be bringing surface water down into the mantle with them. Known as "Calcium Silicate Perovskite", the mineral was found by researchers well-preserved in a diamond. This new form of ice, and ice as a whole, is unique in that when pressure increases, the bonds organize themselves in different arrangements rather than squishing together - explains Oliver Tschauner, a professor of geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a lead author of the study.

Although the study provided the direct evidence of unbonded water at extreme depths, the researchers were not able to determine how large these water pockets are and how common they are.

Diamonds are capable of forming deep in the Earth's mantle - sometimes as much as 400 miles beneath the crust.

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