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Earths Core Looks Like Honey
March 14, 2006 15:11

New hypothesis of Earth core structure is based on complicated experiments and theoretical research performed in RAS Institute for High-Pressure Physics (Troitsk) under the supervision of Doctor of Physics and Mathematics V. Brazhkin for the last ten years. Behaviour of liquid metals under pressures of many hundred thousand atmospheres suggests that Earth's inner core is rather a very viscous liquid with properties similar to glass, than a solid crystalline substance as it is considered so far. Thus the hypothesis about state of matter under high-compression conditions, which is common for 99% of matter in the Universe, may shed light on numerous mysteries of astrophysics and planetology.

Among various objects, studies by physicists, metals are of particular interest, especially iron, which is one of Earth core components. For the studies of liquid iron under pressures comparable to that in the centre of Earth, the scientists have used special diamond chambers several microns in size. Microquantities of condensed matter are studied by means of laser beams. During the experiments the scientists managed to describe such poorly studied properties of condensed liquid metals as viscosity and diffusion. It was considered since nowadays that fluid viscosity almost never changes under compression. The physicists have proved that liquid iron viscosity grows billion-fold with pressure rise. It means that Earth inner core exists most probably in amorphous state rather than in crystalline, and looks more like solid honey or glass.

New hypothesis is in a good agreement with behaviour of seismic waves at the interface of inner and outer Earth cores. In fact in the frequency range of seismic waves amorphous matter behaves the same way solid matter does. V Brazhkin suggests that the temperature in the Earth's centre in still above melting point, thus, considering new experimental data on liquid metal viscosity, the hypothesis of honey-like Earth core seems more real than solid Earth core. High viscosity of Earth outer core explains why we are still unable to detect natural oscillations of the inner core under the effect of Moon tidal forces.

Physicists regard the fact of stabile existence of highly viscous metals under certain conditions as a great discovery. Astrophysicists and planetologists think that this discovery leads to revision of a great number of models, calculating evolution and movement of matter inside celestial bodies and their magnetic field's generation. The thing is that a mixture of hydrogen and helium, which builds stars and giant planets, becomes a liquid ultra-viscous metal under pressure of tens of millions of atmospheres. Fast oscillations of the Earth axis also depend on absolute values of Earth core viscosity. Information on core viscosity is also important for studies of Earth's forced oscillations, tidal forces and Earth's axial rotation.


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