The International Mineralogical Association has officially approved qingsongite as the name for a new mineral, cubic boron nitride.
Qingsongite was named after Prof Qingsong Fang (1939–2010) from 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 minerals.
“The uniqueness of qingsongite is that it is 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,” explained Dr Larissa Dobrzhinetskaya of the University of California, Riverside, who with colleagues described the new mineral in 2010 in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.
Qingsongite was found in the southern Tibetan mountains of China within chromium-rich rocks of the paleooceanic crust that was subducted to a depth of 190 miles and recrystallized there at a temperature of about 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit and pressure of about 118 thousand atmospheres.
“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 and the collision of India with the Asian lithospheric plate,” Dr Dobrzhinetskaya said.
Until now, cubic boron nitride, created first in the laboratory in 1957, was known as an important technological material. Because its atomic structure bears resemblance to carbon bonds in diamond, it has high density and could be as hard as diamond.
To date, more than 4,700 species of minerals have been recognized, with at least 100 proposals for new minerals and their names submitted each year to the International Mineralogical Association for approval.