A quadrillion ton of diamonds found buried in the Earth's crust

19 July, 2018, 20:37 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Diamonds are less rare than you probably thought.   REUTERS  Phil Noble

There are more diamonds buried deep in the Earth's crust than we ever thought possible, new research has revealed, but accessing that sparkling hoard would take technology far beyond what we now have at our disposal.

The research has been recently published by the MIT researchers who were helped by scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the University of California at Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Harvard University, the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Bayreuth, the University of Melbourne, and University College London.

Dr Ulrich Faul, a research scientist at MIT, explained that one of diamond's many special properties is the speed at which sound waves travel through the material.

'The velocities that are measured are faster than what we think we can reproduce with reasonable assumptions about what is there, ' Mr Faul says.

After conducting a series of experiments in the lab where they sent sound waves through different rocks, the researchers found that only rock containing 1-2% diamond, among other components, could produce the velocities recorded in the cratons' roots. The scientists discovered seemingly unpredictable changes in the speed of the waves as they traveled along, and the only explanation that seems plausible is that the waves are speeding up when they hit large deposits of diamond.

'Then we have to say, "There is a problem". The amount is huge and it gets up to over one quadrillion tons of diamonds. In fact, the discovery suggests that we actually have 1,000 times more diamonds on earth than previously expected.


The sound wave goes at different speeds and it depends on the composition, density of rocks and the temperature of the minerals that they go through. Between 150 and 240 kilometres beneath the surface, deep enough to stretch into the Earth's upper mantle.

"Diamond in many ways is special".

Conducted by scientists from several universities in the USA, the U.K., France, Germany, China, and Australia, the research initially began by following a completely different phenomenon - the unusual propagation of sound waves through ancient cratonic roots. Cratons lie beneath most continental tectonic plates. The anomaly in the data was that sound waves sped up as they went through the roots of old cratons.

Diamonds are not as rare as previously thought when taking a look at the entire geological picture of the planet.

Garber said "Our understanding of deep Earth continues to improve because we do more measurements, use more and sometimes get samples".

"It's circumstantial evidence, but we've pieced it all together", Faul said.

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