Accessibility links

Breaking News

Meteorite Yields Sample of Earth's Most Abundant Substance

FILE - Harvard University's Dr. Percy Bridgman, for whom the newly sampled mineral was named, Nov. 5, 1946.

No one had ever seen, or named, the most abundant material on Earth — until now.

Bridgmanite has finally been sampled and named in honor of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Percy Bridgman.

According to the International Mineralogical Association, a mineral cannot be given a name before the physical proof of its existence is obtained.

Scientists believe that about 70 percent of Earth’s lower mantle, or about 36 percent of the planet's total volume, is made of an extremely dense magnesium iron silicate, now named bridgmanite. That region of Earth’s crust starts at 670 kilometers (416 miles) below the surface and is therefore inaccessible with today’s drilling technology.

But instead of pulling a sample of bridgmanite from down below, scientists found it within a meteorite that was subjected to short but intense pressure, similar to what is felt hundreds of kilometers deep inside the Earth’s crust.

Even if they could drill deep enough to reach the bridgmanite layer, scientists say, they would be unable to study it because its structure would be unstable when relieved of the enormous pressure under which it exists.

Scientists from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas described bridgmanite in the journal Science.