There has been lots of research in the past that indicated that exoplanets that are extremely carbon-rich could be bursting with diamonds. NASA has even investigated an exoplanet named 55 Canceri e, the “diamond planet.” It was nicknamed so after research that suggested that it has a carbon-rich composition.
A new study on carbon-rich exoplanets, led by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Chicago, has shed more light on these carbon-rich exoplanets. The research found that some of these exoplanets might be rich with silica and diamond, whereas silica is found as sand and quartz on Earth.
ASU’s Harrison Allen-Sutter, the lead author of the study (published in The Planetary Science Journal), says that “these exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system.” The main factor in the formation of a carbon-rich exoplanet lies in its star’s composition. ASU says, “A star with a lower carbon-to-oxygen ratio will have planets like Earth, comprised of silicates and oxides with a very small diamond content (Earth’s diamond content is about 0.001%).”
That is why it is suggested planets formed around stars with higher carbon-to-oxygen ratios become carbon rich, in the presence of water. The research team tested out this idea in a lab using diamond-anvil cells. They then immersed silicon carbide in water while compressing it at high pressures to mimic the interior of carbon-rich exoplanets. They also simulated heat using lasers.
ASU said, “As they predicted, with high heat and pressure, the silicon carbide reacted with water and turned into diamonds and silica.” Though the idea of planets filled with diamond sounds exciting, there is actually not much to be excited about. Research shows that these carbon-rich exoplanets mostly won’t be even close to habitable due to geological and atmospheric composition.
“While Earth is geologically active (an indicator of habitability), the results of this study show that carbon-rich planets are too hard to be geologically active and this lack of geologic activity may make atmospheric composition uninhabitable,” ASU said.
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