Earth’s Molten Iron Core May Be Rusting Finds New Research

A new study co-authored by Jiuhua Chen finds Earth’s molten iron core may be rusting and may cause a layer to have formed that exhibits unique seismic signatures.

Earth's Molten Iron Core May Be Rusting Finds New Research 1

According to new research published in the journal Advancing Earth and Space Science, Earth’s largest deposit of iron, which forms its core, may be rusting.

Our planet’s core is made up of iron alloyed with nickel and is located about 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) beneath the surface. This molten core has played an important role in Earth’s evolution. As a result, the research’s findings that it could be affected by a regular occurrence like rust, which is known to degrade ferrous materials, raised worries.

When iron is exposed to moist air or oxygenated water, a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in a reddish-brown product.

When iron comes into contact with moisture in the form of water or a “hydroxyl-bearing mineral” at a pressure of close to a million atmospheres, it “forms iron peroxide with the same structure as pyrite,” according to the study, which was co-authored by Jiuhua Chen, Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Florida International University.

Earth's Molten Iron Core May Be Rusting Finds New Research 2
Earth’s internal structure

In layman’s terms, the National Science Foundation’s research indicated the likelihood of rust formation since they were carried out at a pressure that exactly matches the conditions in Earth’s deep lower mantle.

“This rust could shed light on the deep-water cycle in the lower mantle and the enigmatic origins of ultralow-velocity zones (ULVZs) – small, thin regions above the Earth’s fluid core that slow seismic waves significantly.

It could also help answer questions about the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), which marked the beginning of Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere some 2.5 billion to 2.3 billion years ago,” the report in the journal said.

Despite the findings of the study, it is extremely difficult to provide concrete evidence of the rusting process occurring, according to Shanece Esdaille of Florida International University’s Center for Study of Matter at Extreme Conditions and Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

Scientists want to learn more about volcanoes by examining the massive plumes that erupt. According to experts in the field, if rusting has been occurring at the Core-Mantle Boundary (CMB) over time, then a layer must have formed that exhibits unique “seismic signatures.”

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