Surprise! There’s a quadrillion tons of diamonds lying beneath your feet

Diamonds are less rare than you probably thought.   REUTERS  Phil Noble

Diamonds are not as rare as we all think. A new study shows that the interior of Earth is full of quadrillion ton diamonds.

New research by a team from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley has found that there is a lot more diamond in the planet than once believed.

The researchers found that these sound waves tend to speed up when passing through the cratons' roots - much faster than they had previously thought. The cratons-which can stretch as deep as 200 miles through the Earth's crust and mantle- are shaped like inverted mountains.

After conducting a series of experiments in the lab where they sent sound waves through different rocks, the researchers found that only rock containing 1-2% diamond, among other components, could produce the velocities recorded in the craton roots.

Diamonds are valuable due to their scarcity. Analyzing seismic waves is a fairly standard way of determining the composition of our planet's interior, for the simple reason that they're one of the few things that we can detect actually traveling through it. Vibrations from earthquakes don't just travel along the surface, they move down through the body of our planet as well - and a network of seismographs around the world is listening in to every shake and shudder our planet makes. "Then we have to say, 'There is a problem.' That's how this project started". The number they came up with: 1016 tons of diamond, or over 1,000 times more than previously thought.

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Sound travels faster in more dense material than light materials, so its speeds vary according to the composition, temperature, and density of rocks below the surface. "One of its special properties is that the sound velocity in diamond is more than twice as fast as in the dominant mineral in upper mantle rocks, olivine".

Faul, who worked in the lab with a team of seismologists, geochemists and other scientists, slightly increased the amounts of diamond in the virtual rocks, until they reached a combination that produced the same advanced speeds they'd been encountering by using seismic technology on the real Earth. The anomaly in the data was that sound waves sped up as they went through the roots of old cratons.

The ultra-deep cache is scattered throughout the cratonic roots, which make up around two per cent of the ancient rock formations.

"It's circumstantial evidence, but we've pieced it all together", said Faul. Whether you're willing to give up a quarter of your year's earnings on a diamond ring for your future spouse is ultimately up to you, though it seems you might not need to dig so deep after it was discovered that diamonds aren't quite as rare as we initially thought. The eruptions carve out geologic pipes made from kimberlite. The researchers saw that in some parts of the crust named cratons, the sound waves went faster than expected.

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