From University of Copenhagen [Københavns Universitet] (DK): “Researchers use diamonds to comprehend the foundation of Earth’s continents- ‘Without it humankind wouldn’t exist'”

From University of Copenhagen [Københavns Universitet] (DK)

Deep beneath Earth’s crust lies a rocky upper mantle that stabilizes the planet’s continents and is among the primary reasons for the existence of life on Earth. In a new study researchers from the University of Copenhagen and partner institutions use diamonds and other minerals from deep within our planet to examine how the mantle beneath Earth’s continents was formed billions of years ago.

Photo of a peridotit-mountain chain in Greenland, Kristoffer Szilas Photo of a peridotit-mountains in Greenland. Credit: Kristoffer Szilas.

A solid foundation is important in many contexts – for supporting skyscrapers and bridges, for example. But what about 200 kilometers beneath the surface of our continents? Here, the mighty mantle forms the entire foundation for our existence on Earth.

Academically speaking, this particular layer of underground mantle is known as the subcontinental lithospheric mantle. It has allowed the preservation of continents for billions of years and made it possible for terrestrial life to evolve.

“It’s the reason we humans have something to live atop of. Without lithospheric mantle, continents would not have been preserved, nor would there be mountains. Earth’s surface would be covered by ocean and without it, humankind wouldn’t exist,” explains Kristoffer Szilas, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management.

In a new study published in the journal Nature, Szilas and an array of international experts analyse the existing knowledge of lithospheric mantle beneath our continents in a hunt to reveal how the mantle was created several billions of years ago.

Diamonds are the key to understanding the evolution of Earth’s mantle.

Among other things, the researchers used diamonds as a tool to understand how the subterranean mantle was formed roughly 2.5 billion years ago. Back then, high temperatures melted rocks and rock masses that were subsequently pressed together and solidified into the stable, hard mantle which now serves as a foundation for Earth’s continents.

“Diamonds are formed deep within the mantle, which consists of a family of rock known as peridotite. When chunks of peridotite are brought up to the Earth’s surface due to extremely deep volcanic activity, diamonds are known to occasionally tag along. By analyzing the mineral and isotopic composition of these diamonds, we have been able to date the mantle,” explains Assistant Professor Szilas, who adds:

“Our study has allowed us to demonstrate that the mantle was originally created at lower pressures than once believed. Later however, it was compressed and shoved downwards to its current depth, where diamonds could be formed. These are the sorts of details that bring us nearer to understanding Earth’s evolution and what makes our planet unique.”

An explanation for life on Earth and its absence on Mars; Venus; and Mercury.

Besides making a solid crust to stand and walk on possible, Earth’s mantle allows for tectonic activity-the geophysical process by which Earth’s outer tectonic plates move; expand; slide and collide – a process essential for the development of life.

“Plate tectonics causes a constant cycling of nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus from deep within our planet up to the surface. These elements are essential for plant life and for the development of most microorganisms, and thereby life itself. Furthermore, plate tectonics is responsible for the formation of new mountain ranges that, as they erode over time due to wind and weather, capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and create stable temperatures,” explains Szilas.

While similar underground mantles were formed on several other planets during their history only Earth has managed to assemble and preserve its mantle over time.

“Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury are all rocky planets with solid surfaces. Each was formed around an iron core, with an underground mantle of peridotite and an outer crust. However, Earth alone has preserved its mantle. This has contributed to the evolution of life, unlike Mars, for example, which is a dead planet, devoid of plate tectonics, continents and an atmosphere,” concludes Kristoffer Szilas.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

U Copenhagen (UCPH) [Københavns Universitet] (DK)] is a public research university in Copenhagen, Denmark. Founded in 1479, the University of Copenhagen is the second-oldest university in Scandinavia, and ranks as one of the top universities in the Nordic countries and Europe.

Its establishment sanctioned by Pope Sixtus IV, the University of Copenhagen was founded by Christian I of Denmark as a Catholic teaching institution with a predominantly theological focus. After 1537, it became a Lutheran seminary under King Christian III. Up until the 18th century, the university was primarily concerned with educating clergymen. Through various reforms in the 18th and 19th century, the University of Copenhagen was transformed into a modern, secular university, with science and the humanities replacing theology as the main subjects studied and taught.

The University of Copenhagen consists of six different faculties, with teaching taking place in its four distinct campuses, all situated in Copenhagen. The university operates 36 different departments and 122 separate research centres in Copenhagen, as well as a number of museums and botanical gardens in and outside the Danish capital. The University of Copenhagen also owns and operates multiple research stations around Denmark, with two additional ones located in Greenland. Additionally, The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the public hospitals of the Capital and Zealand Region of Denmark constitute the conglomerate Copenhagen University Hospital.

A number of prominent scientific theories and schools of thought are namesakes of the University of Copenhagen. The famous Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics was conceived at the Niels Bohr Institute [Niels Bohr Institutet](DK), which is part of the university. The Department of Political Science birthed the Copenhagen School of Security Studies which is also named after the university. Others include the Copenhagen School of Theology and the Copenhagen School of Linguistics.

As of October 2020, 39 Nobel laureates and 1 Turing Award laureate have been affiliated with the University of Copenhagen as students, alumni or faculty. Alumni include one president of the United Nations General Assembly and at least 24 prime ministers of Denmark. The University of Copenhagen fosters entrepreneurship, and between 5 and 6 start-ups are founded by students, alumni or faculty members each week.


The university is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), along with University of Cambridge (UK), Yale University (US), The Australian National University (AU), and University of California, Berkeley(US), amongst others. The 2016 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks the University of Copenhagen as the best university in Scandinavia and 30th in the world, the 2016-2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings as 120th in the world, and the 2016-2017 QS World University Rankings as 68th in the world. The university has had 9 alumni become Nobel laureates and has produced one Turing Award recipient.

The University of Copenhagen was founded in 1479 and is the oldest university in Denmark. In 1474, Christian I of Denmark journeyed to Rome to visit Pope Sixtus IV, whom Christian I hoped to persuade into issuing a papal bull permitting the establishment of university in Denmark. Christian I failed to persuade the pope to issue the bull however and the king returned to Denmark the same year empty-handed. In 1475 Christian I’s wife Dorothea of Brandenburg Queen of Denmark made the same journey to Rome as her husband did a year before. Unlike Christian I Dorothea managed to persuade Pope Sixtus IV into issuing the papal bull. On the 19th of June, 1475 Pope Sixtus IV issued an official papal bull permitting the establishment of what was to become the University of Copenhagen.

On the 4th of October, 1478 Christian I of Denmark issued a royal decree by which he officially established the University of Copenhagen. In this decree Christian I set down the rules and laws governing the university. The royal decree elected magistar Peder Albertsen as vice chancellor of the university and the task was his to employ various learned scholars at the new university and thereby establish its first four faculties: theology; law; medicine; and philosophy. The royal decree made the University of Copenhagen enjoy royal patronage from its very beginning. Furthermore, the university was explicitly established as an autonomous institution giving it a great degree of juridical freedom. As such the University of Copenhagen was to be administered without royal interference and it was not subject to the usual laws governing the Danish people.

The University of Copenhagen was closed by the Church in 1531 to stop the spread of Protestantism and re-established in 1537 by King Christian III after the Lutheran Reformation and transformed into an evangelical-Lutheran seminary. Between 1675 and 1788 the university introduced the concept of degree examinations. An examination for theology was added in 1675 followed by law in 1736. By 1788 all faculties required an examination before they would issue a degree.

In 1807 the British Bombardment of Copenhagen destroyed most of the university’s buildings. By 1836 however the new main building of the university was inaugurated amid extensive building that continued until the end of the century. The University Library (now a part of the Royal Library); the Zoological Museum; the Geological Museum; the Botanic Garden with greenhouses; and the Technical College were also established during this period.

Between 1842 and 1850 the faculties at the university were restructured. Starting in 1842 the University Faculty of Medicine and the Academy of Surgeons merged to form the Faculty of Medical Science while in 1848 the Faculty of Law was reorganised and became the Faculty of Jurisprudence and Political Science. In 1850 the Faculty of Mathematics and Science was separated from the Faculty of Philosophy. In 1845 and 1862 Copenhagen co-hosted nordic student meetings with Lund University [Lunds universitet] (SE).

The first female student was enrolled at the university in 1877. The university underwent explosive growth between 1960 and 1980. The number of students rose from around 6,000 in 1960 to about 26,000 in 1980 with a correspondingly large growth in the number of employees. Buildings built during this time period include the new Zoological Museum; the Hans Christian Ørsted and August Krogh Institutes; the campus centre on Amager Island; and the Panum Institute.

The new university statute instituted in 1970 involved democratisation of the management of the university. It was modified in 1973 and subsequently applied to all higher education institutions in Denmark. The democratisation was later reversed with the 2003 university reforms. Further change in the structure of the university from 1990 to 1993 made a Bachelor’s degree programme mandatory in virtually all subjects.

Also in 1993 the law departments broke off from the Faculty of Social Sciences to form a separate Faculty of Law. In 1994 the University of Copenhagen designated environmental studies; north–south relations; and biotechnology as areas of special priority according to its new long-term plan. Starting in 1996 and continuing to the present the university planned new buildings including for the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Humanities at Amager (Ørestaden) along with a Biotechnology Centre. By 1999 the student population had grown to exceed 35,000 resulting in the university appointing additional professors and other personnel.

In 2003 the revised Danish university law removed faculty staff and students from the university decision process creating a top-down control structure that has been described as absolute monarchy since leaders are granted extensive powers while being appointed exclusively by higher levels in the organization.

In 2005 the Center for Health and Society (Center for Sundhed og Samfund – CSS) opened in central Copenhagen housing the Faculty of Social Sciences and Institute of Public Health which until then had been located in various places throughout the city. In May 2006 the university announced further plans to leave many of its old buildings in the inner city of Copenhagen- an area that has been home to the university for more than 500 years. The purpose of this has been to gather the university’s many departments and faculties on three larger campuses in order to create a bigger more concentrated and modern student environment with better teaching facilities as well as to save money on rent and maintenance of the old buildings. The concentration of facilities on larger campuses also allows for more inter-disciplinary cooperation. For example the Departments of Political Science and Sociology are now located in the same facilities at CSS and can pool resources more easily.

In January 2007 the University of Copenhagen merged with the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University and the Danish University of PharmaceuticalU Tokyo {東京大学;Tōkyō daigaku](JP) Science. The two universities were converted into faculties under the University of Copenhagen and were renamed as the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In January 2012 the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the veterinary third of the Faculty of Life Sciences merged with the Faculty of Health Sciences forming the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the other two thirds of the Faculty of Life Sciences were merged into the Faculty of Science.

Cooperative agreements with other universities

The university cooperates with universities around the world. In January 2006, the University of Copenhagen entered into a partnership of ten top universities, along with the Australian National University (AU), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich [ETH Zürich] [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich](CH), National University of Singapore [Universiti Nasional Singapura] (SG), Peking University [北京大学](CN), University of California Berkeley (US), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Oxford (UK), U Tokyo {東京大学;Tōkyō daigaku](JP) and Yale University (US). The partnership is referred to as the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU).

The Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics at University of Copenhagen signed a cooperation agreement with the Danish Royal School of Library and Information Science in 2009.