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Scientists were shocked when a never-before-seen mineral was found inside a diamond that was extracted from deep beneath the Earth's surface.
The mineral was named davemaoite, after the prominent geophysicist Ho-Kwang (Dave) Mao. It is the first example of a high-pressure calcium silicate perovskite (CaSiO3) found on Earth.
While another form of CaSiO3, known as wollastonite, is commonly found across the globe, this version has a crystalline structure that can only form under high pressure and high temperatures in Earth's mantle – the mainly solid layer of Earth trapped between the outer core and the crust.
While davemaoite has never been seen before, it is expected to be found in abundance in the Earth's mantle and is a geochemically important mineral.
However, scientists have never found any direct evidence of its existence because it breaks down into other minerals when the pressure decreased due to it being brought up to the surface for inspection.
But boffins recently found a diamond in Botswana which was formed in the mantle around 660 kilometres below Earth's surface, writes LiveScience.
Analysis of the diamond revealed that the unknown mineral trapped inside the diamond is a sample of intact davemaoite.
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The International Mineralogical Association is now able to confirm it as a new mineral.
"The discovery of davemaoite came as a surprise," lead author Oliver Tschauner, a mineralogist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Live Science.
According to Tschauner, the sample they found was only a few micrometres (millionths of a meter) in size.
Scientists believe that davemaoite has an important role to play in the planet's geochemical composition. They believe that the mineral may also contain other trace elements, including uranium and thorium, which release heat via radioactive decay.
It may help to generate a substantial amount of heat in the mantle, according to Tschauner.
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