Scientists find cosmic ice on Earth

Mindy Sparks
March 11, 2018

According to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers found inside of diamonds from different parts of the world (Africa and China) a rare form of ice.

After scanning the diamond with an x-ray, the University of Nevada scientists realized that they had found ice-vii, for the first time ever in naturally occurring form. The pressure in the mantle is intense, causing diamonds to form from carbon. 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. Tschauner also found that while under the confines of hardened diamonds found on the surface of the planet, Ice-VII is solid.

The cubic crystalline form of ice, known as ice-VII, is hypothesized to comprise the ocean floor of the Saturn moons of Titan and Europa, as well as planets outside our own solar system.

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. Rarely, substances such as water get trapped inside. Ice-VII crystallizes as it ascends but it still retains its very high pressure of around 24 gigapascals.


"Usually the extremely deep minerals that come up to the surface are not stable once they experience low pressures", said California Institute of Technology mineralogist and study author George Rossman. "But if a diamond comes up fast enough, it doesn't change".

As the name suggests, there are a few kinds of ice that recognize our common assortment of solidified water from Ice-VII, every more thick than the last.

"Water in diamonds is not unknown, but finding this very high pressure form of water ice intact, that was really fortuitous", said Tschauner.

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