South African diamond provides new clues on Earth's internal processes

This diamond contains the first evidence of calcium silicate perovskite found in nature. Credit Nester Korolev UBC

It appears that the diamond was formed 400 miles below the planet's surface.The discovery of the diamond, and the mineral found within it, allowed geologists to confirm some of their theories. The finding, published online today (March 7) in the journal Nature, provides an important clue to the puzzle of how Earth's inner structure behaves. 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.

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. The mine is located on a well known diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. The mine also holds the distinction of producing the world's largest diamond in 1905.

"The only possible way to keep this mineral at the Earth's surface is when he is locked in a container, such as a diamond", explained Pearson.

Researchers have estimated that around 93 percent of the Earth's lower mantle is made up of silicate perovskites.

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Graham Pearson (Graham Pearson), Professor at the University of Alberta and one of the study's authors, said that the mine is the source of the most valuable for the science of diamonds. However, this remained only a theory up until now. In order for them to study this mineral, they had to chemically create it as they could collect a sample from nature. But the super-deep diamonds are found 800 kilometres down. During the study, Pearson and his team found a tiny 3-millimeter diamond at the depth of 1 km from the Cullinan Mines. The one containing the CaSiO3likely formed at a depth of around 435 miles, where the pressure is approximately 240,000 times greater than the atmospheric pressure at sea level.

"Water in diamonds is not unknown, but finding this very high pressure form of water ice intact, that was really fortuitous", George Rossman, a mineralogist at Caltech, told the Los Angeles Times.

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. "And the specific composition of the perovskite inclusion in this particular diamond very clearly indicates the recycling of oceanic crust into Earth's lower mantle".

According to reports, the next phase of the study will have researchers from the University of British Columbia working on the origin and age of the diamond and rare Earth mineral. (Zetta is a unit prefix equal to a factor of 10, or a one followed by 21 zeros.) Scientists have long known that CaSiO3 was plentiful, particularly in "slabs of oceanic crust that have plunged into the planet's mantle at tectonic boundaries", Specktor of Live Science writes.

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