Abstract

Nanodiamonds can be synthesized hydrothermally in the laboratory by using a C-O-H fluid in the graphite stability field, in which the graphite/nanodiamond transition depends on the crystal size as a function of temperature. In nature, the hydrothermal circulation of seawater in serpentinites plays an important role in the carbon speciation in the oceanic crust and exposed mantle, in which hydrocarbons (mainly CH4) of abiogenic origin (via Fischer-Tropsch-type reaction) and occasionally graphite particles are detected. Can nanodiamonds nucleate and grow in serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems? To answer this question, a theoretical modelling study which compares the physico-chemical conditions in hydrothermal synthesis with those observed in modern and fossil serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems is proposed. Nanodiamonds are predicted to precipitate from a C-O-H fluid, consisting of CH4-CO2-H2O at 350–400°C and P <0.2 GPa near the FMQ buffer (Fayalite-Magnetite-Quartz), which are conditions compatible with those existing in serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems. In these environments, carbon-supersaturated fluids can be derived from water consumption (serpentine formation) under low water/rock ratios, which may promote the growth of nanodiamonds. This theoretical approach sheds light on the intriguing problem of carbon speciation in abyssal-type hydrothermal systems, suggesting that serpentinites may host nanodiamond deposits, even though none have been found yet.

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