Our planet is a true miracle of nature since it has all the 92 naturally occurring chemical elements. The combinations which they can get in are endless, and there is still a lot to be learned by scientists when they are exploring the depths of the Earth.
A grain of rock lodged in a diamond contains a never-before-found mineral. Scientists made the discovery while making some explorations on a volcanic site in South Africa known as the Koffiefontein pipe.
Goldschmidtite is the newfound mineral
Scientists named the mysterious mineral “goldschmidtite” in honor of the great geochemist Victor Moritz Goldschmidt. The newfound substance could reveal unusual chemical reactions unfolding in the depths of the Earth’s mantle, which is 1,802 miles (2,900 km) thick.
The Koffiefontein pipe is loaded with shining diamonds which are containing tiny bits of other minerals from hundreds of miles beneath Earth’s surface. Within one of these sparkling stones, scientists found a dark green and opaque mineral, which is exactly the goldschmidtite.
Sparkling diamonds are the remnants of carbon deposits which were exposed to intense pressure and heat in the upper mantle. Since the rocks trap other mantle minerals in their structures and can be pushed to the planet’s surface by underground volcanic eruptions, scientists can analyze mineral inclusions in the diamonds in order to take a peek at chemical processes that occur beneath the crust of the Earth.
“Goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare-earth elements lanthanum and cerium, whereas the rest of the mantle is dominated by other elements, such as magnesium and iron,” study co-author Nicole Meyer, a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Canada, said in a statement. Potassium and niobium make up most of the mineral, meaning the relatively rare elements were brought together and concentrated to form the unusual substance, despite other nearby elements being more abundant, she said.
“Goldschmidtite is highly unusual for an inclusion captured by diamond and gives us a snapshot of fluid processes that affect the deep roots of continents during diamond formation,” mantle geochemist Graham Pearson, Meyer’s co-supervisor, said in the statement.
For the moment, the goldschmidtite material is exposed at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.