No one has seen this element in the ocean yet.  Underworld surprised more than expected

in pages Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta In 2000, the results of research by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences came out, and they were the first to discover zinc isotopes within mid-ocean ridge basalts, that is, in the so-called MORBs (mid-ocean basalts). How does this component get into basalts and does it bring anything new to science? This is what researchers are trying to find out.

First you need to understand the nature of the Mid-Ocean Ridges. These are the linear shapes of the ocean floor. occur all over the world. In these regions, tectonic plates spread apart – new material formed from basalts is delivered all the way from Earth’s upper mantle and transported to the surface. Thus, the rocks in the ridges are the youngest within the entire oceanic crust, and the oldest must be sought near the continents. Then their age reaches as far back as the early Jurassic period.

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The hills in the middle of the ocean are still full of surprises. Does ground cover contain zinc?

MORBs, that is, the basalts of the mid-ocean ridge regions, are a frequent topic of research, because they are the most original, unchanged material from Earth’s interior. The presence of spreading zones is thought to be related to convective motions in the mantle. Unfortunately, we still have very little evidence on this subject and most of the knowledge is based on theoretical digressions.

The discovery of Chinese scientists slightly changes the view on MORBs. Zinc isotopes have not been found in this type of rock before. Zinc is commonly found in sphalerite, a sulfide mineral found in ore veins. Thus, it is formed as a result of the activity of hot solutions penetrating the rock. In the mid-ocean ridge we have a slightly different environment, although there are noticeable hydrothermal vents here, where strong sulfide mineralization can also occur.

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East Pacific Ridge Map / Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Researchers have found isotopes of zinc in the eastern Pacific Ridge. New oceanic crust here is growing at a very fast pace, up to 7 cm per year, which is one of the highest values ​​on Earth. The content of isotopes in the rocks was different and depended on the degree of differentiation in the basalt alloy, that is, the reduction of the content of MgO and CaO compounds.

The fact that we have zinc in prevalence areas is just the tip of the iceberg. The researchers will embark on further research to establish whether this element is supplied directly from the upper mantle or has a different source. Analysis of the isotopes themselves and their ages can bring many surprises about the history of Earth’s interior.

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