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UNLV geochemists find mineral on earth’s surface that’s usually buried

The calcium silicate compound, CaSiO₃-perovskite, called “davemaoite” by University of Nevada,...
The calcium silicate compound, CaSiO₃-perovskite, called “davemaoite” by University of Nevada, Las Vegas geochemists.(UNLV)
Published: Nov. 28, 2021 at 2:49 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KOLO) -University of Nevada, Las Vegas geochemists found a mineral on the earth’s surface that’s only been found hundreds of miles below the surface in the earth’s mantle.

The calcium silicate compound, CaSiO₃-perovskite, showed up as infinitesimal small dark specks in a diamond unearthed from an African mine in the 1980s.

“It’s the first time that lower mantle minerals have ever been observed in nature because they usually fall apart before they reach the Earth’s surface, unable to retain their structure outside of a high-pressure environment,” UNLV said in a statement.

A gem dealer sold the diamond in 1987 to a California Institute of Technology in Pasadena researcher, and recently, UNLV mineralogist Oliver Tschauner and colleagues applied a new suite of scientific tools to the diamond’s interior structure, UNLV reported.

They found a new crystalline compound they named “davemaoite” after Ho-kwang “Dave” Mao, an experimental geophysicist who developed many of the techniques that Tschauner and his colleagues use.

“For jewelers and buyers, the size, color, and clarity of a diamond all matter, and inclusions — those black specks that annoy the jeweler — for us, they’re a gift,” Tschauner said in a statement. “I think we were very surprised. We didn’t expect this.”

The findings were published in the journal Science.

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