Earth has probably more diamonds than we think

Drop of water looking like a diamond (Source: Flickr/graftedno1)
Drop of water looking like a diamond (Source: Flickr/graftedno1)

Main Point:

Scientists have suggested that we have more diamonds than we think, and the process of formation of diamond is probably not as complicated as we think.

Published in:

Nature Communications

Study Further:

In a recent study from scientists of Johns Hopkins University, it has been suggested that diamonds in the Earth are not as rare as once thought. They are of opinion that diamonds are commonly produced deep inside the Earth.

“Diamond formation in the deep Earth, the very deep Earth, may be a more common process than we thought,” said Dimitri A. Sverjensky, Johns Hopkins geochemist. However, it is not easier to bring gem-quality diamonds in the market from that collection of diamonds. Most of the diamonds in the study are minute particles, i.e. having the size of few microns, and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

In the study, scientists used a chemical model and found that these diamonds could be developed as a result of a natural chemical reaction that is simpler than the processes already known to produce diamonds. According to the model, diamonds can be formed as a result of increased acidity during interaction between rock and water, i.e. water can produce diamonds, if pH falls (water becomes more acidic) while moving from one rock to another. However, this chemical model has still to be tested with actual materials.

“The more people look, the more they’re finding diamonds in different rock types now,” Sverjensky noted. “I think everybody would agree there’s more and more environments of diamond formation being discovered.”

It’s almost impossible to explore the great depths, pressures, and temperatures at which diamond formation is taking place, i.e. approximately 90-120 miles deep in the Earth, intense pressure of about 5.0 GPa, and temperature of about 1,650-2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Sverjensky, deepest drilling ever made was about 8 or 9 miles below the surface.

Although this study would not affect the diamond market, it could help in studying the histories of fluids in the deep Earth. “Ultimately, such integrated studies hold the potential for helping to unravel specific reaction histories of fluids in the deep Earth and in deep time,” researchers noted.

Sources:

Sverjensky, D., & Huang, F. (2015). Diamond formation due to a pH drop during fluid–rock interactions Nature Communications, 6 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9702

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutics, in Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan.