Discovering The Secrets of the Deep Earth

The Earth still has many mysteries. Even though we have hundreds of years of technological innovation and scientific discovery that enabled us to chart stars and put a man on the moon, what lies directly beneath our feet is still largely secret knowledge. The Earth is comprised of many layers. Humans, animals, and all of the inhabitable lands and oceans lie on the outermost layer known as the Crust. Beneath that, is the rigid outer layer of the Mantle called the Lithosphere, beyond that is the softer part of the Mantle which contains magma. Right now we can’t drill much further than the Lithosphere, but a recent discovery in a small speck inside a diamond in Brazil has given us a rare glimpse into the world beneath us.

Like many amber fossils of prehistoric insects, diamonds can often contain mineral impurities compressed into the diamond as it’s created. Depending on how far down the diamond was formed sometimes these impurities contain clues as to the types of minerals and how the earth is constructed far below where we are able to drill. In the case of the diamond found in Brazil, the stone contained a small particle of a very rare mineral known as Ringwoodite, identified using Raman and infrared spectrophotometry.

Ringwoodite was long suspected as being a major building block within the Earth’s mantle. Ringwoodite itself was only found on meteorites and then reproduced artificially in the lab, making this direct sample from deep within the Mantle of the Earth extremely rare and valuable. Its discovery confirms the theories about the composition of the Earth’s Mantle. Additionally, it resolved a controversy concerning a debate over how much water is present in the transition zone between the Crust and the Lithosphere as it retains a lot more water than normal minerals. The Ringwoodite sample contained about 1% water which doesn’t sound like much, but with such a tiny sample, this is a staggering number. It’s now theorized that the Earth s transition zone could contain more water than all of the Earth s oceans combined. This find will change the study of how the tectonic plates in the Lithosphere move and will increase research into discovering where this water beneath the earth comes from, giving us a deeper understanding of the world beneath our feet.

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