Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Diamonds show depth extent of Earth's carbon cycle

Date:
September 15, 2011
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Scientists have speculated that Earth's carbon cycle extends into the deep Earth, but until now there has been no direct evidence. Researchers analyzed diamonds that originated from the lower mantle and erupted to the surface. Analysis shows compositions consistent with the mineralogy of oceanic crust. This finding is the first direct evidence that slabs of oceanic crust sank into the lower mantle and that material, including carbon, is cycled between Earth's surface and deep interior.

Raw diamonds are screened for those hosting inclusions. The key to discovering the minute inclusions is meticulous polishing of the diamonds on a jeweler's polishing wheel.
Credit: Image Science/AAAS

Scientists have speculated for some time that Earth's carbon cycle extends deep into the planet's interior, but until now there has been no direct evidence. The mantle-Earth's thickest layer -is largely inaccessible. A team of researchers analyzed diamonds that originated from the lower mantle at depths of 435 miles (700 kilometers) or more, and erupted to the surface in volcanic rocks called kimberlites. The diamonds contain what are impurities to the gemologist, but are known as mineral inclusions to the geologist. Analysis shows compositions consistent with the mineralogy of oceanic crust. This finding is the first direct evidence that slabs of oceanic crust sank or subducted into the lower mantle and that material, including carbon, is cycled between Earth's surface and depths of hundreds of miles.

Related Articles


The research is published online in Science Express.

The mantle extends from as little as 5 to 1,800 miles (10-2,900 kilometers) beneath Earth's surface. Most diamonds are free from inclusions and come from depths less than 120 miles (200 km). But in a few localities researchers have found super-deep diamonds from the depths of the convecting upper and lower mantle, as well as the transition zone in between. Whereas inclusions in diamonds from the depths of the upper mantle and transition zone have been consistent with a surface-rock origin, none from the lower mantle have borne this signature until now.

The team, which included Carnegie scientists, was led by former Carnegie postdoctoral fellow Michael Walter, now a professor at the University of Bristol, UK. The scientists analyzed minute (one to two hundredths of a millimeter) mineral grains from six diamonds from the Juina region in Brazil. The analysis showed that diamond inclusions initially crystallized as a single mineral that could form only at depths greater than 435 miles (700 km). But the inclusions recrystallized into multiple minerals as they were carried up to the surface -- first probably from a mantle upwelling known as a plume, then as they erupted to the surface in kimberlites

The diamonds were analyzed for carbon at Carnegie. Four of the diamonds contained low amounts of carbon-13, a signature not found in the lower mantle and consistent with an ocean-crust origin at Earth's surface. "The carbon identified in other super-deep, lower mantle diamonds is chiefly mantle-like in composition," remarked co-author Steven Shirey at Carnegie. "We looked at the variations in the isotopes of the carbon atoms in the diamonds. Carbon originating in a rock called basalt, which forms from lava at the surface, is often different from that which originates in the mantle, in containing relatively less carbon-13. These super-deep diamonds contained much less carbon-13, which is most consistent with an origin in the organic component found in altered oceanic crust."

"I find it astonishing that we can use the tiniest of mineral grains to show some of the motions of the Earth's mantle at the largest scales," concluded Shirey.

The researchers on the paper are M.J. Walter, S. Kohn, G. Bulanova, and C. Smith of University of Bristol, UK; D. Araujo of Universidade de Brasilia-DF Brazil; A. Steele of Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, and S. Shirey, E. Gaillou, and J. Wang of Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Funding was provided by the NSF in the US, the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) in the UK, and the Carnegie Institution for Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. J. Walter, S. C. Kohn, D. Araujo, G. P. Bulanova, C. B. Smith, E. Gaillou, J. Wang, A. Steele, S. B. Shirey. Deep Mantle Cycling of Oceanic Crust: Evidence from Diamonds and their Mineral Inclusions. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1209300

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Diamonds show depth extent of Earth's carbon cycle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915141221.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2011, September 15). Diamonds show depth extent of Earth's carbon cycle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915141221.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Diamonds show depth extent of Earth's carbon cycle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915141221.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Carbon Cycle Reaches Earth's Lower Mantle: Evidence of Carbon Cycle Found in 'superdeep' Diamonds From Brazil

Sep. 15, 2011 The carbon cycle, upon which most living things depend, reaches much deeper into Earth than generally supposed -- all the way to the lower mantle, researchers ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins