Letter | Published:

Hydrous mantle transition zone indicated by ringwoodite included within diamond

Nature volume 507, pages 221224 (13 March 2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

The ultimate origin of water in the Earth’s hydrosphere is in the deep Earth—the mantle. Theory1 and experiments2,3,4 have shown that although the water storage capacity of olivine-dominated shallow mantle is limited, the Earth’s transition zone, at depths between 410 and 660 kilometres, could be a major repository for water, owing to the ability of the higher-pressure polymorphs of olivine—wadsleyite and ringwoodite—to host enough water to comprise up to around 2.5 per cent of their weight. A hydrous transition zone may have a key role in terrestrial magmatism and plate tectonics5,6,7, yet despite experimental demonstration of the water-bearing capacity of these phases, geophysical probes such as electrical conductivity have provided conflicting results8,9,10, and the issue of whether the transition zone contains abundant water remains highly controversial11. Here we report X-ray diffraction, Raman and infrared spectroscopic data that provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence for the terrestrial occurrence of any higher-pressure polymorph of olivine: we find ringwoodite included in a diamond from Juína, Brazil. The water-rich nature of this inclusion, indicated by infrared absorption, along with the preservation of the ringwoodite, is direct evidence that, at least locally, the transition zone is hydrous, to about 1 weight per cent. The finding also indicates that some kimberlites must have their primary sources in this deep mantle region.

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Acknowledgements

D.G.P. acknowledges CERC funding for this study. F.N. is supported by ERC Starting Grant 307322. Support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Deep Carbon Observatory project created this research partnership. We thank T. Stachel for comments on the manuscript plus access to the FTIR instrument at the De Beers Laboratory of Diamond Research at the University of Alberta, and we thank J. Harris for discussions. Sample JUc29 was provided by Trigon GeoServices Ltd.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 1-26 Earth Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada

    • D. G. Pearson
    •  & S. Matveev
  2. Geoscience Institute – Mineralogy, Goethe University, Altenhöferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt, Germany

    • F. E. Brenker
    •  & S. Schmitz
  3. Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università di Padova, 35137 Padua, Italy

    • F. Nestola
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    • J. McNeill
    •  & K. Mather
  5. Institut für Mineralogie und Kristallographie, Universität Wien, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Wien, Austria

    • L. Nasdala
  6. Trigon GeoServices Ltd, 2780 South Jones Boulevard, #35-15, Las Vegas, Nevada 89146, USA

    • M. T. Hutchison
  7. Department of Analytical Chemistry, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 S12, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

    • G. Silversmit
    • , B. Vekemans
    •  & L. Vincze

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Contributions

D.G.P. had the idea for the study, wrote the manuscript and helped perform the Raman and FTIR measurements. F.E.B. performed the Raman measurements and ion-milling and made compositional estimates. F.N. performed X-ray measurements. J.M. and L.N. first identified the inclusion as ringwoodite. M.T.H. selected the diamond for this study and assisted with manuscript preparation and geological background. S.M. performed the FTIR measurements and the water content estimate. K.M. assisted with manuscript preparation. G.S., S.S., B.V. and L.V. performed the synchrotron X-ray mapping measurements.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. G. Pearson.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13080

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