Called goldschmidtite In honor of Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the founder of modern geochemistry, a new mineral has been discovered inside a diamond unearthed from a mine in South Africa.
The finding has been made by Nicole Meyer, a graduate student at the Diamond Exploration Research and Training School of the University of Alberta (Canada) and the details have been published in American Mineralogist.
Minerals that we have never seen
Some minerals are formed at depths such as the earth's surface that have simply never been seen or seen very occasionally. The latter case is that of goldschmidtite. And it is estimated that the diamond it contains the goldschmidtite formed about 170 kilometers below the surface of the Earth (we have not managed to drill beyond 11 kilometers), at temperatures that reach almost 1,200 C.
On the composition of the mineral, Nicole Meyer explains:
It has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, while the rest of the mantle is dominated by other elements, such as magnesium and iron.
Because of how difficult it is to drill through the earth's crust to reach the mantle, small mineral inclusions within diamonds are relied upon to learn more about the chemistry of the Earth beneath the surface: There have been several attempts to name new minerals after Goldschmidt, but the previous ones have been discredited.
Another curious case is that of the most abundant mineral on Earth, which until recently it was not even possible to see. Before its official baptism, the unnamed mineral was simply designated by geologists as MgSiO3, that is, a mineral composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. The problem is that it is from a depth of 670 kilometers, although it forms approximately 50% of the volume of the lower mantle of our planet. That is, it is estimated that the nameless mineral represents 38% of the volume of the Earth.
However, in 1879, a meteorite-shaped gift was precipitated in Queensland, Australia, which contained a small sample of this unnamed mineral in its gut. The Tenham meteorite only contained a microscopic sample of MgSiO3, but it was enough that it could finally be baptized with a name: bridgmanite.