Abstract

Qingsongite (IMA 2013-30) is the natural analog of cubic boron nitride (c-BN), which is widely used as an abrasive under the name “Borazon.” The mineral is named for Qingsong Fang (1939–2010), who found the first diamond in the Luobusa chromitite. Qingsongite occurs in a rock fragment less than 1 mm across extracted from chromitite in deposit 31, Luobusa ophiolite, Yarlung Zangbu suture, southern Tibet at 29°13.86N and 92°11.41E. Five electron microprobe analyses gave B 48.54 ± 0.65 wt% (range 47.90–49.2 wt%); N 51.46 ± 0.65 wt% (range 52.10–50.8 wt%), corresponding to B1.113N0.887 and B1.087N0.913, for maximum and minimum B contents, respectively (based on 2 atoms per formula unit); no other elements that could substitute for B or N were detected. Crystallographic data on qingsongite obtained using fast Fourier transforms gave cubic symmetry, a = 3.61 ± 0.045 Å. The density calculated for the mean composition B1.100N0.900 is 3.46 g/cm3, i.e., qingsongite is nearly identical to synthetic c-BN. The synthetic analog has the sphalerite structure, space group F4̄3m. Mohs hardness of the synthetic analog is between 9 and 10; its cleavage is {011}. Qingsongite forms isolated anhedral single crystals up to 1 μm in size in the marginal zone of the fragment; this zone consists of ~45 modal% coesite, ~15% kyanite, and ~40% amorphous material. Qingsongite is enclosed in kyanite, coesite, or in osbornite; other associated phases include native Fe; TiO2 II, a high-pressure polymorph of rutile with the αPbO2 structure; boron carbide of unknown stoichiometry; and amorphous carbon. Coesite forms prisms several tens of micrometers long, but is polycrystalline, and thus interpreted to be pseudomorphic after stishovite. Associated minerals constrain the estimated pressure to 10–15 GPa assuming temperature was about 1300 °C. Our proposed scenario for formation of qingsongite begins with a pelitic rock fragment that was subducted to mid-mantle depths where crustal B originally present in mica or clay combined with mantle N (δ15N = −10.4 ± 3‰ in osbornite) and subsequently exhumed by entrainment in chromitite. The presence of qingsongite has implications for understanding the recycling of crustal material back to the Earth’s mantle since boron, an essential constituent of qingsongite, is potentially an ideal tracer of material from Earth’s surface.

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