A new research has suggested that diamonds may not be as rare as once believed. Johns Hopkins University geochemist Dimitri A. Sverjensky said that diamond formation in the very deep Earth may be a more common process than they thought.
The report says the results constitute a new quantitative theory of diamond formation, but that does not mean it will be easier to find gem-quality diamonds and bring them to market.
For one thing, the prevalence of diamonds near the Earth’s surface, where they can be mined, still depends on relatively rare volcanic magma eruptions that raise them from the depths where they form. For another, the diamonds being considered in these studies are not necessarily the stuff of engagement rings, unless the recipient is equipped with a microscope. Most are only a few microns across and are not visible to the unaided eye.
Using a chemical model, Sverjensky and researcher Fang Huang found that these precious stones could be born in a natural chemical reaction that is simpler than the two main processes that up to now have been understood to produce diamonds. Specifically, their model, yet to be tested with actual materials, shows that diamonds can form with an increase in acidity during interaction between water and rock.
The common understanding up to now has been that diamonds are formed in the movement of fluid by the oxidation of methane or the chemical reduction of carbon dioxide. Oxidation results in a higher oxidation state, or a gain of electrons. Reduction means a lower oxidation state, and collectively the two are known as ‘redox’ reactions.
The new research showed that water could produce diamonds as its pH falls naturally, that is, as it becomes more acidic, while moving from one type of rock to another, Sverjensky said.
The study appears online journal Nature Communications.