A quirky material that behaves like a mishmash of liquid and solid could be hidden deep in the Earth.
Computer simulations described in two studies suggest that the material in Earth’s inner core, which includes iron and other, lighter elements, may be in a “superionic” state. That means that while the iron stays put, as in a solid, the lighter elements flow like a liquid.
The research gives a potential peek at the inner workings of an enigmatic, inaccessible realm of the planet. According to conventional scientific wisdom, Earth’s core consists of a liquid outer core surrounding a solid inner core. But beyond knowing that the inner core is rich in iron, scientists don’t know exactly which other elements are present, and in what quantities.
“The inner core is very difficult to scrutinize simply because it’s so deep beneath our feet,” says geophysicist Hrvoje Tkalčić of Australian National University in Canberra. [Continue reading…]