Terrestrial Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopic Ratios from Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary Nanodiamonds

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Science  04 Dec 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5088, pp. 1624-1626
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5088.1624


One hypothesis for the origin of the nanometer-size diamonds found at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary is that they are relict interstellar diamond grains carried by a postulated asteroid. The 13C/12C and 15N/14N ratios of the diamonds from two sites in North America, however, show that the diamonds are two component mixtures differing in carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition and nitrogen abundance. Samples from a site from Italy show no evidence for either diamond component. All the isotopic signatures obtained from the K-T boundary are material well distinguished from known meteoritic diamonds, particularly the fine-grain interstellar diamonds that are abundant in primitive chondrites. The K-T diamonds were most likely produced during the impact of the asteroid with Earth or in a plasma resulting from the associated fireball.