A group of researchers, lead by Oliver Tschauner, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have described and named the mineral which constitues 38% of the Earth. Examining natural Bridgmanite, named after Percy Bridgman, the 1946 Nobel laureate who pioneered work in high pressure research, using x-ray diffraction at GSECARS the group examined the highly shocked Tenham L6 chrondrite.

Meteorites exposed to high pressures and temperatures during impact-induced shock often contain minerals whose occurrence and stability normally confine them to the deeper portions of Earth’s mantle. One exception has been MgSiO3 in the perovskite structure, which is the most abundant solid phase in Earth. Here we report the discovery of this important phase as a mineral in the Tenham L6 chondrite and approved by the International Mineralogical Association (specimen IMA 2014-017). MgSiO3-perovskite is now called bridgmanite. The associated phase assemblage constrains peak shock conditions to ~ 24 gigapascals and 2300 kelvin. The discovery concludes a half century of efforts to find, identify, and characterize a natural specimen of this important mineral.

Bridgmanite is described as a high-density form of magnesium iron silicate, the Earth’s most abundant mineral. (Image courtesy of Caltech).

O. Tschauner, C. Ma, J. R. Beckett, C. Prescher, V. B. Prakapenka, G. R. Rossman. Discovery of bridgmanite, the most abundant mineral in Earth, in a shocked meteorite. Science, 2014; 346 (6213): 1100 DOI: 10.1126/science.1259369

A section of meteorite that landed in Australia in 1879. Bridgmanite was formed and trapped in the dark veins from the intense, quick shock of asteroid collisions.

Oliver Tschauner, GSECARS Sector 13 ID-E