Diamonds might be more common deep under the Earth

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but those friends might be easier to find than formerly believed. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed a model they believe means that in the deep, deep Earth, diamonds might not be rare at all. This is based on a theory that diamonds can be formed not just by the "redox" reactions commonly believed to have produced the diamonds we know today but also by water passing through rocks. Luckily for the diamond market, it's not going to make jewelry cheaper. At least not yet.

Scientists have long held that diamonds are formed through two processes, collectively called "redox". The first is the oxidation of methane that increases the number of electrons and the other is the reduction of carbon dioxide. According to geochemist Dimitri A. Sverjensky, who co-authored the paper appearing in the online journal Nature Communications, there might a third and far simpler way.

Their research has led them to believe that water can actually produce diamonds, at least the water that is flowing deep down in the Earth. Water naturally becomes more acidic as it transfers from one type of rock after another. This increase in acidity, in turn, eventually forms diamonds. Sverjensky says that, as we dig deeper into the earth and its history, finding diamonds becomes an even more common occurrence.

That said, that doesn't spell disaster for the jewelry industry. The theoretical diamonds that Sverjensky and co-author doctoral student Fang Huang are proposing are only a few microns in diameter. That's not even visible to the naked eye, much less something you can put on jewelry. And yes, it's still theoretical, since their model has yet to be tested using actual materials. But more importantly, even if their model is correct, the more common diamonds they are talking about would be found only 90 to 120 miles below the earth's surface. To put it into perspective, man's deepest drilling excursion made it only so far as 9 miles down.

Nevertheless, the findings would still have significant implications, not for jewelers, but for scientists exploring the history of the earth. The movement of water that would have produced these diamonds would give clues to the movement of liquid in general under the earth. In turn, that would also shed some light on the carbon cycle that is necessary for sustaining life on Earth.

SOURCE: EurekaAlert!