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  1. Abstract

    Sub-Neptune exoplanets may have thick hydrogen envelopes and therefore develop a high-pressure interface between hydrogen and the underlying silicates/metals. Some sub-Neptunes may convert to super-Earths via massive gas loss. If hydrogen chemically reacts with oxides and metals at high pressures and temperatures (PT), it could impact the structure and composition of the cores and atmospheres of sub-Neptunes and super-Earths. While H2gas is a strong reducing agent at low pressures, the behavior of hydrogen is unknown at thePTexpected for sub-Neptunes’ interiors, where hydrogen is a dense supercritical fluid. Here we report experimental results of reactions between ferrous/ferric oxides and hydrogen at 20–40 GPa and 1000–4000 K utilizing the pulsed laser-heated diamond-anvil cell combined with synchrotron X-ray diffraction. Under these conditions, hydrogen spontaneously strips iron off the oxides, forming Fe-H alloys and releasing oxygen to the hydrogen medium. In a planetary context where this reaction may occur, the Fe-H alloy may sink to the metallic part of the core, while released oxygen may stabilize as water in the silicate layer, providing a mechanism to ingas hydrogen to the deep interiors of sub-Neptunes. Water produced from the redox reaction can also partition to the atmosphere of sub-Neptunes, which has important implications formore »understanding the composition of their atmospheres. In addition, super-Earths converted from sub-Neptunes may contain a large amount of hydrogen and water in their interiors (at least a few wt% H2O). This is distinct from smaller rocky planets, which were formed relatively dry (likely a few hundredths wt% H2O).

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