A mineral never seen before was found in a diamond that formed deep in the earth’s mantle. The discovery is a rare glimpse into the deep mantle. Expert hope that this may help reveal new information about the structure of the planet at depths of more than 660 kilometers. This information can help geologists better understand how the mantle controls the earth’s plate tectonics.
Named davemaoite after prominent geophysicist Ho-kwang (Dave) Mao, the mineral is the first example of a high-pressure calcium silicate perovskite (CaSiO3) found on Earth. This only forms under the incredibly high pressures that occur deep in the earth. Another form of CaSiO3, known as wollastonite, is commonly found across the globe, but davemaoite has a crystalline structure that forms only under high pressure and high temperatures in Earth’s mantle, the mainly solid layer of Earth trapped between the outer core and the crust.
Davemaoite has long been expected to be an abundant and geochemically important mineral in Earth’s mantle. But scientists have never found any direct evidence of its existence because it breaks down into other minerals when it moves toward the surface and pressure decreases. However, analysis of a diamond from Botswana, which formed in the mantle around 410 miles (660 kilometers) below Earth’s surface, has revealed a sample of intact davemaoite trapped inside. As a result, the International Mineralogical Association has now confirmed davemaoite as a new mineral.
Davemaoite is believed to play an important geochemical role in Earth’s mantle. Scientists theorize that the mineral may also contain other trace elements, including uranium and thorium, which release heat via radioactive decay. Therefore, davemaoite may help to generate a substantial amount of heat in the mantle.
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