More Than A Quadrillion Tons Of Diamonds Lay Within The Earth

17 July, 2018, 20:54 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • A model poses with two white diamonds each over 50 carats

A study published Monday estimates the composition of deep rock layers known as cratons and concludes that they may be far more glittery than previously suspected. The locations may be rare on the Earth's surface, but looking at the entire geological picture of the planet, diamonds are not as rare. They arrived at the conclusion that if these structures contain between 1 and 2 percent diamond, then the speed of the seismic waves makes sense. A new report indicates that Earth may have a truly massive cache of them located about 100 miles beneath the Earth's surface, a depth that is too deep for present drilling technologies.

"This shows that diamond is not perhaps this exotic mineral, but on the [geological] scale of things, it's relatively common", says Ulrich Faul, a research scientist in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. "We can't get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before". Agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey keep global records of seismic data, which are sound waves traveling through the Earth. Seismic receivers around the world pick up sound waves from such sources, at various speeds and intensities, which seismologists can use to determine where, for example, an natural disaster originated.

The deep parts of cratons, known as the roots, are also near where diamonds form in the first place, in the blazing heat and crushing pressures found deep inside the planet.

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.

Geologists have used this relationship between seismic velocity and rock composition to estimate the types of rocks that make up the Earth's crust and parts of the upper mantle.


The study was detailed by MIT, which explains that seismic activity data gathered by entities like the USGS essentially involves sound waves that pass through the Earth.

"The velocities that are measured are faster than what we think we can reproduce with reasonable assumptions about what is there", Faul says. Then we have to say, There is a problem.

The best explanation for the speeds actually observed underground was that 1 to 2% of the roots of the cratons was made up of diamonds, while the rest was made up of peridotite (the main type of rock in Earth's upper mantle) and a little bit of eclogite rocks (from the ocean's crust). This might not seem much in terms of the total amount of material in the crust and mantle, but it is 1,000 times more diamonds than expected.

"Diamond in many ways is special", Dr Faul said. This combination would make cratons less dense than previously thought, which would explain why the seismic waves travel faster than older models called for.

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