Understanding the Earth Using Diamonds - News
“Diamonds are the only mineral that comes directly from the Earth’s mantle, and therefore the minerals that are trapped in the diamonds are the only minerals that provide any information about the chemistry, pressure and temperature of the Earth’s mantle,” Michelfelder said.
The funding for Michelfelder’s research gives him access to the User Nanoscience Research Program at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge Laboratory and during that time, unlimited access to the Time of Flight Secondary Ionization Mass Spectrometer (ToF SIMS).
The ToF SIMS measures the mass of atoms to calculate isotopic ratios or abundance of an element. Basically, it’s like bowling on an interstate.
The first step is when an atom gun shoots ions at the diamonds. The ions, which are atoms without an electron, act like a bowling ball hitting the pins. They hit the diamond, and some of its atoms fall off and go into the flight tube. The flight tube is like an interstate for atoms. Based on speed, the flight tube shows the lighter and heavier atoms, giving their mass.