Saturday, 22 September 2012


The Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has revealed that the 100 kilometre wide Popigai Astroblem crater, from a meteorite which hit Earth 35 million years ago, contains a dense deposit of industrial diamonds (good for technological purposes but not jewelry). The deposit was apparently discovered in the 1970’s, but the Soviets decided to keep it a secret so that they didn’t upset a world diamond market that already favoured them. Nikolai Pokhilenko, the head of the Geological and Mineralogical Institute in Novosibirsk, has said that the diamonds include other molecular forms of carbon, and that they could be twice as hard as conventional diamonds. He said the Popigai diamonds could revolutionise the global market in industrial diamonds.


There are two main explanations for the formation of ‘impact diamonds’, found in small quantities at meteorite-impact sites around the Earth. If a meteor slams into an area rich with carbon, like the remains of living organisms, then the high pressures and temperatures of the collision would be enough to turn the terrestrial carbon into diamond. Another possibility is that the carbon arrives on Earth inside the meteorite, and is then flash-fused into diamonds on impact. There have been discoveries of meteorites embedded with tiny diamonds, but neither of the scenarios posited is known to create the amount of diamonds that Russia claims has been discovered.


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