An international team of researchers have discovered high-pressure ice crystals embedded inside diamonds, technology, science and science fiction website Gizmodo reported.
These sparkling and super-strong crystals of carbon atoms produced under the crushing pressures generated deep in the Earth’s bowels could give us a clue to how much water might be hiding beneath our planet’s crust.
The scientists identified the ice based on how x-rays bounced off of the specimens at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron particle accelerator at Argonne National Lab in Illinois. The researchers published the results of their work in Thursday’s issue of Science.
Scientists believe that while the diamonds were forming, they must have encapsulated some liquid water from the crust’s transition zone where minerals seem to be more soluble.
Prevented from crystallizing under high pressure, the water froze as geological activity eventually moved the diamonds to the surface.
The Earth’s mantle is solid, but free water found frozen into ice offers evidence of fluid flowing inside the mantle’s transition zone.
Even though it was previously thought that slabs of Earth’s crust sink into the planet’s hot interior below bone dry, they could still be bringing surface water down into the mantle with them.
“That does flip our perspective of the balance of water between the surface and the interior of the planet,” Rhode Island University researcher Katie Kelley told Gizmondo.