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Du Frane explains that hydrogen diffusion is dependent upon the direction it travels through olivine.

water cycle | Definition, Steps, Diagram, & Facts |

NanoSIMS analyzes the composition of solid surfaces and thin films by sputtering specimens with a beam of ions and collecting and analyzing the ejected ions to determine composition down to a spatial resolution of 50 nanometers. Photo by Randy Wong.


The instrument allowed the team to measure hydrogen diffusion in olivine along the three principal orientations simultaneously, showing that diffusion is highly directional—protons travel approximately 10 times more quickly in the fastest orientation than in the other two. The vacancies are coordinated by surrounding oxygen atoms, which are negatively charged.

Furthermore, the research is certain to provide a better understanding of water distribution in the mantle because different electrical conductivities can be an effective technique for mapping water distribution.

The results showed diffusion to differ greatly depending on orientation. The graph shows the concentration of deuterium in the crystal of each orientation at a single point in time. Plate tectonics are the result of deep mantle convections, evident as upwelling plumes and downwelling oceanic slabs.

Damp down there

These convections are imaged by seismic tomography, which is similar to ultrasound imaging. Hydrogen is known to alter the physical and chemical properties of olivine and other mantle minerals, so its presence in the mantle would significantly affect large-scale geophysical properties such as plate tectonics, deep earthquakes, and volcanic activity. For example, the element weakens silicon—oxygen bonds, reduces melting temperature, and moderates the flow of molten materials. With such information, researchers could infer regional water content from geophysical measurements of electrical conductivity.

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Expanding our understanding of the chemistry and physics of mantle minerals will help answer such fundamental questions. Although Mars and Venus exhibit evidence of water in their distant past, Earth is the only planet in our solar system that has retained its oceans and the only planet known to have plate tectonics. Planets might exist elsewhere in the universe that also possess vast oceans of water. Understanding the evolution of water on Earth therefore informs the possible evolution of other Earthlike planets.

Distribution of Water on the Earth’s Surface

For further information contact Wyatt Du Frane dufrane2 llnl. View Article in PDF. The identification of ice inside those diamonds provides scientists with more than a nifty new mineral, Tschauner says.

Alongside the ice VII inclusions were tiny crystals of calcite and various types of salts, Tschauner says. The presence of watery fluids at or below the boundary between the upper and lower mantle could definitely affect how and where heat is generated in the mantle, says Oded Navon, a mantle geochemist at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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For instance, such watery fluids could more readily carry certain forms of easily dissolved radioactive elements from one part of the mantle to another. That could affect where in the mantle heat-generating radioactive decay occurs, which, in turn, could make the heated areas less viscous and thus prone to flow more readily.

That, in turn, influences where the slabs melt and release the water and other minerals they hold. By Jeffrey Mervis Sep. All rights Reserved. New evidence of water pockets has been found hundreds of kilometers deep inside our planet.

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