The Earth's inner core is hot, under immense pressure and snow-capped, according to new research that could help scientists better understand forces that affect the entire planet. The snow is made of tiny particles of iron—much heavier than any snowflake on Earth's surface—that fall from the molten outer core and pile on top of the inner core, creating piles up to 200 miles thick that cover the inner core. Iron is significant in our lives and even our bodies. Iron alloys, like iron-copper alloy, ferro-nickel and FeCrAl also pay an important role in industry.
The image related to snowflake may sound like an alien winter wonderland. But the scientists who led the research said it is akin to how rocks form inside volcanoes. "The Earth's metallic core works like a magma chamber that we know better of in the crust," said Jung-Fu Lin, a professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin and a co-author of the study. The study is available online and will be published in the print edition of the journal JGR Solid Earth on December 23.
The Earth's core can't be sampled, so scientists study it by recording and analyzing signals from seismic waves (a type of energy wave) as they pass through the Earth.
However, aberrations between recent seismic wave data and the values that would be expected based on the current model of the Earth's core have raised questions. The waves move more slowly than expected as they passed through the base of the outer core, and they move faster than expected when moving through the eastern hemisphere of the top inner core.
The study proposes the iron snow-capped core as an explanation for these aberrations. The scientist S.I. Braginkskii proposed in the early 1960s that a slurry layer exists between the inner and outer core, but prevailing knowledge about heat and pressure conditions in the core environment quashed that theory. However, new data from experiments on core-like materials conducted by Zhang and pulled from more recent scientific literature found that crystallization was possible and that about 15% of the lowermost outer core could be made of iron-based crystals that eventually fall down the liquid outer core and settle on top of the solid inner core. The new discovry draw peoples' more interest to the iron technology and iron product,such as iron alloy.
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