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Geologists Contemplate Quadrillion Tons of Diamonds Inside Earth

22 July 2018

The deposits sit some 90 to 150 miles below the Earth's surface, much deeper than current mining machinery allows.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) team, there is a quadrillion tonne of the precious stones encased in the very deepest roots of our planet, in a thick, immovable layer of rock known as cratons.

"Diamonds are a ideal match because they're a little bit more dense, but we don't need a lot of them", said Ulrich Faul, a researcher in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and a senior participant in the study. Sound, the scientist Ulrich Faul told MIT News, travels twice as quickly through this carbon structure "as in the dominant mineral in upper mantle (a part of the lithosphere) rocks, olivine".

"We can't get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before", Dr Faul said. These stable chunks of the Earth's crust are shaped like "inverted mountains". In the past few decades, agencies such as the US Geological Survey have retained a global record of seismic activity - essentially Earth's sound waves caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, explosions and other seismic sources.

They found that the only type of rock that matched the speeds they were detecting in craton would contain one to two percent diamond. They are usually cooler and less dense than surrounding rock and result in faster sound waves.

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"We went through all the different possibilities, from every angle, and this is the only one that's left as a reasonable explanation", Faul said in a statement.

So they put together virtual rocks, made from potential combinations of materials, and using three-dimensional models, compared the velocities of sound through the variations.

The anomaly that started the project was the discovery that "sound waves tend to speed up significantly when passing through the roots of ancient cratons", MIT News reported. This is at least 1,000 times more than the diamonds that people had expected.

Other universities involved in the study were the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the University of California at Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Harvard University, the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Bayreuth, the University of Melbourne, and University College London.

But if they are over 100 miles below the Earth's surface, how did scientists find them?

Geologists Contemplate Quadrillion Tons of Diamonds Inside Earth