STATES CHRONICLE – According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, diamonds may be littering the very deep Earth, debunking the previous belief that the gems are rare. Now that’s the kind of littering we could all get behind, even though the jewels are buried deep – deep – down.
Based on a theoretical model of deep fluids, leading researcher and geochemist Dimitri Sverjensky found that the process that births diamonds isn’t as complicated and rare as we previously thought.
Although the model is yet to be tried on actual minerals, the preliminary results suggest a simple natural chemical reaction is enough for the formation of a precious stone: increased acidity that occurs after water interacts with rock.
Before this discovery, common belief said that diamonds are the result of more complex processes involving the reduction of methane oxidation or carbon dioxide and fluid movements. Redox reactions – oxidation causing loss of electrons and reduction causing gain of electrons – require different fluids to penetrate the rocks and interact with varying oxidation levels.
Published in journal Nature Communications, the research suggests that water can ignite the process that produces diamonds with a simple increase in its acidity, something that occurs when it moves from one type of rock to another. The researchers noted that “a drop in pH during water-rock interactions” could results in diamond formation.
According to the model, diamonds don’t require changes in oxidation state in order to form in the deep Earth; water-rock interactions are enough. Even though the theoretical perception over how diamonds form could be changing, researchers explained the findings do not necessarily mean that quality diamonds will now grow on trees.
For one, the number of diamonds near the surface of the Earth – where humans can mine them – is still in tight connection with the relatively rare volcanic magma eruptions, the ones responsible for surfacing the gems from the deep, where they have formed.
Diamond formation occurs between 90 to 120 miles below the surface of the Earth, in conditions of extreme temperatures and pressure. The diamonds researchers used in their experiments are not the kind used in engagement rings – which are measured in carats – but a lot smaller one, measuring only a few microns across; the naked eye cannot see them.
Diamonds have expanded their use way beyond jewelry pieces; in addition to various industrial uses, they also have potential in the field of medicine, such as detecting early stage cancers.
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