Nature recycles garbage to create diamonds

Diamonds: an example of nature’s ability to recycle. Credit: Pikrepo

You diamonds Earth’s deepest depths are commonly composed of ancient living organisms that have been recycled more than 400 kilometers below the surface, new research from Curtin University (Australia) has found. the work was published in the magazine Scientific Reports, from the Nature group.

The research found that both the diamonds found in oceanic rocks and the so-called super-deep continental diamonds shared a common source of recycled organic carbon deep in the Earth’s mantle.

According to the main author, dr. Luc Doucet, of the Earth Dynamics Research Group at Curtin University’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the findings offer a fascinating insight into the world’s most expensive gemstones. “Bringing new meaning to the old adage of garbage to treasure, this research found that the Earth’s engine actually turns organic carbon into diamonds many hundreds of miles below the surface,” said Doucet.

Map showing occurrences of oceanic diamond and oceanic mantle plume. Data are from Lian and Yang16 and Doucet et al.33. The world map is made using open source software GPlate 2.2 (licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 with data from the open source coastal strip from Matthews et al.34 ( licensed under Creative Common International License Attribution 4.0 Credit: DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-96286-8
Volcanic eruptions

“Balloon-shaped rocks from the Earth’s deepest mantle, called mantle plumes, or mantle, carry the diamonds back to the Earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions for humans to enjoy as precious stones,” he continued. “Although the recycling is becoming a modern necessity for our sustainable survival, we were particularly surprised to learn through this research that Mother Nature has shown us how to recycle in style for billions of years.”

The three main types of natural diamonds include oceanic, continental super-deep and lithospheric diamonds, formed at different levels of the mantle with a variable mix of organic and inorganic carbon.

Co-author Zheng-Xiang Li, head of Curtin University’s Earth Dynamics Research Group, said the research provided a model that explains the formation and location of all three major types of diamonds. “This is the first time that all three major types of diamonds have been bonded to mantle plumes, hot balloon-shaped rocks driven by tectonic plates and the deep-Earth supercontinent cycle,” he said.

More secrets to unravel

“This research not only helps to understand the Earth’s carbon cycle, but also has the potential to unlock more secrets of the planet’s dynamic history by tracing the previous locations of the mantle’s plumes and superplumes. This can be achieved by mapping the distribution of continental plumes and oceanic diamonds,” added Li.

However, Professor Li said it remains a mystery why diamonds formed in the so-called “mantle transition zone”, 400 to 600 kilometers deep, use only recycled organic carbon. “This may have something to do with the physicochemical environment there,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for a new scientific discovery to raise more questions that require further investigation.”

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