Nitrides and carbonitrides from the lowermost mantle and their importance in the search for Earth's "lost" nitrogen

Felix Kaminsky*, Richard Wirth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The first finds of iron nitrides and carbonitride as inclusions in lower-mantle diamond from Rio Soriso, Brazil, are herein reported. These grains were identified and studied with the use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction analysis (EDX), and electron energy loss spectra (EELS). Among nitrides, trigonal Fe3N and orthorhombic Fe2N are present. Carbonitride is trigonal Fe9(N0.8C0.2)4. These mineral phases associate with iron carbide, Fe7C3, silicon carbide, SiC, Cr-Mn-Fe and Mn-Fe oxides; the latter may be termed Mn-rich xieite. Our identified finds demonstrate a wide field of natural compositions from pure carbide to pure nitride, with multiple stoichiometries from M5(C,N)3 to M23(C,N)6 and with M/(C,N) from 1.65 to 3.98. We conclude that the studied iron nitrides and carbonitrides were formed in the lowermost mantle as the result of the infiltration of liquid metal, containing light elements from the outer core into the D″ layer, with the formation of the association: native Fe0 + iron nitrides, carbides, and transitional compounds + silicon carbide. They indicated that major reservoirs of nitrogen should be expected in the core and in the lowermost mantle, providing some solution to the problem of nitrogen balance in the Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1676
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Mineralogist
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • nitride
  • carbide
  • nitrogen
  • lower mantle


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