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Geologists: Black Diamonds Come From Outer Space

Photonics.com
Jan 2007
UPTON, N.Y., Jan. 12, 2007 -- Using infrared synchrotron radiation, geologists have discovered that Earth's so-called black diamonds originated in interstellar space.

Scientists Jozsef Garai and Stephen Haggerty of Florida International University, along with researchers Sandeep Rekhi and Mark Chance from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University, used infrared light from the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton to analyze the diamonds’ elemental makeup and discover their origin.BlackDiamond.jpg
Black, or carbonado, diamonds, came from outer space, geologists have discovered. (Photo: Steve Haggerty)
“Trace elements critical to an ‘ET’ origin are nitrogen and hydrogen,” said Haggerty. The presence of hydrogen in the black diamonds, also known as carbonado diamonds, indicates an origin in a hydrogen-rich interstellar space, he and colleagues believe.

The term carbonado was coined by the Portuguese in Brazil in the mid-18th century; it’s derived from its visual similarity to porous charcoal. Black diamonds are found only in Brazil and the Central African Republic.

“Conventional diamonds are mined from explosive volcanic rocks (kimberlites) that transport them from depths in excess of 100 kilometers to the Earth’s surface in a very short amount of time,” said Sonia Esperanca, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. “This process preserves the unique crystal structure that makes diamonds the hardest natural material known.”

From Australia to Siberia, from China to India, the geological settings of conventional diamonds are virtually identical, said Haggerty. None of them are compatible with the formation of black diamonds.

Approximately 600 tons of conventional diamonds have been mined, traded, polished and adorned since 1900. “But not a single black/carbonado diamond has been discovered in the world’s mining fields,” Haggerty said.

The new data support earlier research by Haggerty showing that carbonado diamonds formed in stellar supernovae explosions. Black diamonds were once the size of asteroids, a kilometer or more in diameter when they first landed on Earth.
 
The research was published online on Dec. 20, 2006, in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

For more information, visit: www.bnl.gov

GLOSSARY
crystal
A solid with a structure that exhibits a basically symmetrical and geometrical arrangement. A crystal may already possess this structure, or it may acquire it through mechanical means. More than 50 chemical substances are important to the optical industry in crystal form. Large single crystals often are used because of their transparency in different spectral regions. However, as some single crystals are very brittle and liable to split under strain, attempts have been made to grind them very...
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
radiation
The emission and/or propagation of energy through space or through a medium in the form of either waves or corpuscular emission.
synchrotron
A device that uses superconducting magnets to bend or accelerate charged particles. It can be used to etch very fine high-density patterns on integrated circuits.
Black DiamondBrookhavencarbonadoCase WesterncrystaldiamondextraterrestrialFlorida International UniversitygeologistsinfraredinterstellarkimberlitesnanoNews & Featuresphotonicsradiationspacesynchrotronvolcanic

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