A new study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University suggests that diamonds may not be as rare as they were once believed. Study researcher and geochemist Dimitri Sverjensky said that the process by which diamonds are formed in the very deep Earth could be more common than previously believed.
Using a theoretical model of deep fluids, Sverjensky and Fang Huang discovered that diamonds could be formed in a comparatively simple natural chemical reaction. The model, which still needs to be tried using actual minerals, hinted that the precious stone can form when acidity is increased after rock and water interact.
Until now, it has been commonly thought that diamonds emerge from more complex processes that involve fluid movements and the reduction of carbon dioxide or methane oxidation.
Oxidation would result in the loss of electrons during a reaction, while reduction results in the gain of electrons. The two processes are collectively called "redox" reactions and necessitate different fluid types to move through rocks and encounter environments with varying oxidation states.
The research, which was published in journal Nature Communications on Nov. 3, suggested that water is capable of producing diamonds as its acidity increases while moving from one type of rock to another.
"We show that diamonds could form due to a drop in pH during water-rock interactions," the researchers wrote in their study. "Diamond can form in the deep Earth during water-rock interactions without changes in oxidation state."
Researchers said that the results of the study involve a new quantitative theory on how diamonds form but the findings do not necessarily mean that gem-quality diamonds will now be easier to find.
For one, the prevalence of diamonds near the surface of the Earth, where they are mined, still relies on relatively rare volcanic magma eruptions that bring these stones up from the depths where they have formed.
Diamonds are formed between 90 to 120 miles below the surface of the Earth at extreme pressure and temperatures.
The diamonds that were considered in the research were not the kind that are used in engagement rings since most measure only a few microns across and cannot be seen with an unaided eye.
Besides being used in jewelry pieces, diamonds also have a range of industrial uses. New studies likewise reveal the potential of diamonds in the field of medicine specifically in detecting deadly cancers in early stages.
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