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Diamond and silicon carbide in impact melt rock from the Ries impact crater

Nature volume 378, pages 4144 (02 November 1995) | Download Citation

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Abstract

SHOCK-PRODUCED diamond and lonsdaleite (the hexagonal polymorph) were first observed in experiments involving explosions1. Several classes of meteorites2,3 contain microcrystalline diamond aggregates that are thought to be produced by impacts with the Earth or in space. Diamonds have also been found in association with several Russian impact craters4 and in Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary impact ejecta5,6; these too have most often been interpreted as having formed by shock in the solid state4. Here we report the occurrence of diamond lonsdaleite plates and cubic diamond in association with silicon carbide, in impact melts from the Ries crater in southern Germany. We interpret these occurrences as evidence that these phases can be formed by chemical vapour deposition from the ejecta plume of an impact crater. It follows that cubic diamond and silicon carbide may be formed at any impact site from vaporized carbon-bearing rocks, and hence may be used as a reliable diagnostic tool for hypervelocity impact on Earth. This process may also explain the occurrence of diamonds found in sediments (carbonados7), which may result from the 'heavy bom-bardment' period of early Earth history, rather than from mantle-derived diatremes8.

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Affiliations

  1. Planetary Sciences Unit, Department of Earth Sciences,The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

    • R. M. Hough
    • , I. Gilmour
    •  & C. T. Pillinger
  2. Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University, Parks Road,Oxford 0X1 3PR, UK

    • J. W. Arden
  3. School of Physics, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • K. W. R. Gilkess
  4. Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University,Cambridge CBS OHE, UK

    • J. Yuan
  5. Department of Geological Sciences, University College,Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • H. J. Milledge

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https://doi.org/10.1038/378041a0

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