Geoscientists Find Mind-Blowing 'Alien Ice' Trapped in a Diamond

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The discovery of Ice-VII in the diamonds is the first known natural occurrence of the aqueous fluid from the deep mantle.

Before now, ice-VII, a form of ice with a cubic molecular shape which is one and a half times as dense as regular ice, has only been created on Earth in a laboratory environment. For his study, Tschauner used diamonds found in China, the Republic of South Africa, and Botswana that surged up from inside Earth. The mantle - which makes up more than 80 percent of the Earth's volume - is made of silicate minerals containing iron, aluminum, and calcium among others. They had, however, speculated that it might be common in other icy parts of the solar system, including Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan and Jupiter's moon Europa.

Researchers stumbled onto a native ice-VII sample by accident, inside a diamond formed deep in the Earth's mantle, as much as 400 miles beneath the crust. In very rare cases, as diamonds travel up through the mantle and crust to the Earth's surface, they maintain their tight lattice structure, and the water inside them is exposed to low enough temperatures that ice-VII can form. Experts analyzed the stone, they figured out that it was Ice-VII.

As explained by the Los Angeles Times, the "teeny bits" of the chemicals around minerals that get encapsulated within them during their formation are known as inclusions. According to study lead author Oliver Tschauner, a geoscience professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the findings were entirely accidental, as his team had originally sought to find an "unusual phase of carbon dioxide" within diamonds. The International Mineralogical Association has just recognized Ice-VII as a mineral. Tschauner and colleagues findings were published today in Science.



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