Seismic observations suggest that the uppermost region of Earth’s liquid outer core is buoyant, with slower velocities than the bulk outer core. One possible mechanism for the formation of a stably stratified layer is immiscibility in molten iron alloy systems, which has yet to be demonstrated at core pressures. We find immisci- bility between liquid Fe-Si and Fe-Si-O persisting to at least 140 GPa through a combination of laser-heated diamond-anvil cell experiments and first-principles molecular dynamics simulations. High-pressure immiscibility in the Fe-Si-O system may explain a stratified layer atop the outer core, complicate differentiation and evolution of the deep Earth, and affect the structure and intensity of Earth’s magnetic field. Our results support silicon and oxy- gen as coexisting light elements in the core and suggest that SiO2 does not crystallize out of molten Fe-Si-O at the core-mantle boundary.
This content will become publicly available on December 30, 2022
Thermal conductivity of Fe-Si alloys and thermal stratification in Earth’s core
Light elements in Earth’s core play a key role in driving convection and influencing geodynamics, both of which are crucial to the geodynamo. However, the thermal transport properties of iron alloys at high-pressure and -temperature conditions remain uncertain. Here we investigate the transport properties of solid hexagonal close-packed and liquid Fe-Si alloys with 4.3 and 9.0 wt % Si at high pressure and temperature using laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments and first-principles molecular dynamics and dynamical mean field theory calculations. In contrast to the case of Fe, Si impurity scattering gradually dominates the total scattering in Fe-Si alloys with increasing Si concentration, leading to temperature independence of the resistivity and less electron–electron contribution to the conductivity in Fe-9Si. Our results show a thermal conductivity of ∼100 to 110 W⋅m −1 ⋅K −1 for liquid Fe-9Si near the topmost outer core. If Earth’s core consists of a large amount of silicon (e.g., > 4.3 wt %) with such a high thermal conductivity, a subadiabatic heat flow across the core–mantle boundary is likely, leaving a 400- to 500-km-deep thermally stratified layer below the core–mantle boundary, and challenges proposed thermal convection in Fe-Si liquid outer core.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Abstract The investigation of transport properties in normal liquid helium-3 and its topological superfluid phases provides insights into related phenomena in electron fluids, topological materials, and putative topological superconductors. It relies on the measurement of mass, heat, and spin currents, due to system neutrality. Of particular interest is transport in strongly confining channels of height approaching the superfluid coherence length, to enhance the relative contribution of surface excitations, and suppress hydrodynamic counterflow. Here we report on the thermal conduction of helium-3 in a 1.1 μ m high channel. In the normal state we observe a diffusive thermal conductivity that is approximately temperature independent, consistent with interference of bulk and boundary scattering. In the superfluid, the thermal conductivity is only weakly temperature dependent, requiring detailed theoretical analysis. An anomalous thermal response is detected in the superfluid which we propose arises from the emission of a flux of surface excitations from the channel.
Structure and Properties of Liquid Fe‐C Alloys at High Pressures by Experiments and First‐Principles CalculationsIt is believed that the core formation processes sequestered a large majority of Earth’s carbon into its metallic core. Incorporation of carbon to liquid iron may significantly influence its properties under physicochemical conditions pertinent to the deep magma ocean and thus the chemical evolution of terrestrial planets and moons. Compared to available experimental data on the physical properties of crystalline iron alloys under pressure, there is a remarkable lack of data on the properties of liquid iron‐rich alloys, due to experimental challenges. Here we review experimental and computational results on the structure and properties of iron or iron‐nickel liquids alloyed with carbon upon compression. These laboratory data provide an important foundation on which the interpretation of ultrahigh pressure laboratory data and the verification of theoretical data will have to be based. The low‐pressure data can be used to validate results from theoretical calculations at the same conditions, and high‐pressure calculations can be used to estimate and predict liquid properties under core conditions. Availability of the liquid properties of Fe‐C liquids will provide essential data for stringent tests of carbon‐rich core composition models for the outer core.
Abstract Evaluating carbon’s candidacy as a light element in the Earth’s core is critical to constrain the budget and planet-scale distribution of this life-essential element. Here we use first principles molecular dynamics simulations to estimate the density and compressional wave velocity of liquid iron-carbon alloys with ~4-9 wt.% carbon at 0-360 gigapascals and 4000-7000 kelvin. We find that for an iron-carbon binary system, ~1-4 wt.% carbon can explain seismological compressional wave velocities. However, this is incompatible with the ~5-7 wt.% carbon that we find is required to explain the core’s density deficit. When we consider a ternary system including iron, carbon and another light element combined with additional constraints from iron meteorites and the density discontinuity at the inner-core boundary, we find that a carbon content of the outer core of 0.3-2.0 wt.%, is able to satisfy both properties. This could make the outer core the largest reservoir of terrestrial carbon.
Germanium telluride is a high performing thermoelectric material that additionally serves as a base for alloys such as GeTe–AgSbTe 2 and GeTe–PbTe. Such performance motivates exploration of other GeTe alloys in order understand the impact of site substitution on electron and phonon transport. In this work, we consider the root causes of the high thermoelectric performance material Ge 1− x Mn x Te. Along this alloy line, the crystal structure, electronic band structure, and electron and phonon scattering all depend heavily on the Mn content. Structural analysis of special quasirandom alloy structures indicate the thermodynamic stability of the rock salt phase over the rhombohedral phase with increased Mn incorporation. Effective band structure calculations indicate band convergence, the emergence of new valence band maxima, and strong smearing at the band edge with increased Mn content in both phases. High temperature measurements on bulk polycrystalline samples show a reduction in hole mobility and a dramatic increase in effective mass with respect to increasing Mn content. In contrast, synthesis as a function of tellurium chemical potential does not significantly impact electronic properties. Thermal conductivity shows a minimum near the rhombohedral to cubic phase transition, while the Mn Ge point defect scattering is weakmore »