Qingsongite, the first boron mineral to be formed in extreme conditions deep in the Earth, has U.S. geologists, as well as their Chinese and German counterparts, interested.
Author: Dorothy Kosich
Posted: Monday , 05 Aug 2013
Up until this month, Qingsong Fang, a professor at the Institute of Geology, the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, was probably best known for his discoveries of four new mineral species, along with his discovery of the first diamond in Tibetan chromium-rich rocks in the late 1970s.
Now, he is the namesake for a new mineral, cubic boron nitride or “qingsongite”. Formerly only created through a chemical compound in laboratories, cubic boron nitride (CBN) is only inferior to a diamond in hardness. Under certain conditions, the chemical compound can be harder than a diamond.
The laboratory version of CBN is considered one of the greatest technological advancements for grinding hardened ferrous and superalloy materials, and is classified as a “super abrasive.” It is usually found in grinding wheels and coatings.
The mineral cubic boron nitride was discovered in the southern Tibetan mountains of China within the chromium-rich rocks of the paleooceanic crust that was subducted to a depth of 190 miles and recrystallized there at a temperature of about 2372 degrees Fahrenheit.
“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,” University of California Riverside geological Larissa Dobrzhinetskaya told UCR Today.
Although the discovery was made in 2009 and involved UC Riverside, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkley, California, the University of Main and institutions from China and Germany, it was officially approved as a new mineral early this month by the International Mineralogical Association. Grants from the University of California Laboratory Fees Research Program and the National Science Foundation also helped support the discovery.