Geologists at the University of California, Riverside have discovered a new mineral, which they have named qingsongite.
While the original discovery of the mineral, which is cubic boron nitrate, was made in 2009, it was only officially approved this week by the International Mineralogical Association.
The mineral was uncovered by geologists Larissa Dobrzhinetskaya and Harry Green in the Department of Earth Sciences at URC, with the aid of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Maine and from institutions in China and Germany.
Dobrzhinetskaya explained that "this uniqueness of qingsongite is that it's the first boron mineral that was found to be formed at extreme conditions in deep earth".
“All other known boron minerals are found at Earth’s surface.”
It was found in the southern Tibetan mountains of China "within chromium-rich rocks of the paleooceanic crust that was subducted to a depth of 305 kilometres and recrystallised there at a temperature of about 1300 degrees Celsius and pressure of about 118430 atmospheres", according to the University.
“About 180 million years ago the rocks were returned back to shallow levels of the Earth by plate tectonic processes leading to the closure of the huge Paleo-Thethys ocean — an ancient Paleozoic ocean — and the collision of India with the Asian lithospheric plate,” Dobrzhinetskaya stated.
The discovery is an important one as cubic boron nitride, created first in the laboratory in 1957, is an important technological material.
Its atomic structure is similar to carbon bonds in diamond, giving it a high density and potentially making it as hard as diamonds.
Qingsongite was named after Qingsong Fang (1939–2010), a professor at the Institute of Geology, the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, who found the first diamond in the Tibetan chromium-rich rocks in the late 1970s, and contributed to the discovery of four new mineral species.