New research on diamond formation suggests that the valuable stones might actually be a dime a dozen — but good luck getting to these theoretical stones.

In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, scientists from Johns Hopkins University, present a new, alternative model for conditions under which diamonds can form. If this model is correct, it would mean that diamond formation could happen all the time in the very deep Earth. But in addition to being woefully inaccessible, the diamonds in question would be practically microscopic. So unless you've got some kind of futuristic mining rig and really tiny hands, you're not likely to find the bauble of your dreams thanks to this research.

That doesn't mean it isn't cool. Until now, it was generally thought that diamonds required complex chemical reactions called redox reactions (reduction and oxidation) involving the loss and gain of electrons as different kinds of fluids move through rock. But according to the new study, simple changes in pH (or acidity) can spur diamond formation, too.

The new model suggests that at very high temperatures (over 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit) and high pressures (over 725,000 pounds per square inch), water can form diamonds naturally as it moves from one kind of rock to another. The key is the natural drop in pH — the water getting more acidic.

If these diamonds are forming, they're forming around 100 miles below the surface. That's more than 10 times deeper than any drilling exploration has ever gone. So the scientists involved in the study will most likely never get to see these diamonds in the flesh.

But the researchers hope that their model can be used to study wider interactions between deep fluids and rock, helping other scientists to better understand the way our Earth's interior has evolved over time.

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