Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rust under pressure could explain deep Earth anomalies

09.06.2016

Using laboratory techniques to mimic the conditions found deep inside the Earth, a team of Carnegie scientists led by Ho-Kwang "Dave" Mao has identified a form of iron oxide that they believe could explain seismic and geothermal signatures in the deep mantle. Their work is published in Nature.

Iron and oxygen are two of the most geochemically important elements on Earth. The core is rich in iron and the atmosphere is rich in oxygen, and between them is the entire range of pressures and temperatures on the planet.


An artwork depicting the decomposition of FeOOH in lower mantle conditions. The cycle starts from α-FeOOH (blue dot on the top) to its high-pressure form (brown dot), to FeO2 (center crystal) and hydrogen (cyan bubbles), and finally produce other minerals (bubbles on the left side).

Courtesy of Ms. Xiaoya

"Interactions between oxygen and iron dictate Earth's formation, differentiation--or the separation of the core and mantle--and the evolution of our atmosphere, so naturally we were curious to probe how such reactions would change under the high-pressure conditions of the deep Earth," said Mao.

The research team--Qingyang Hu, Duck Young Kim, Wenge Yang, Liuxiang Yang, Yue Meng, Li Zhang, & Ho-Kwang Mao--put ordinary rust, or FeOOH, under about 900,000 times normal atmospheric pressure and at about 3200 degrees Fahrenheit and were able to synthesize a form of iron oxide, FeO2, that structurally resembles pyrite, also known as fool's gold. The reaction gave off hydrogen in the form of H2.

FeOOH is found in iron ore deposits that exist in bogs, so it could easily move into the deep Earth at plate tectonic boundaries, as could samples of ferric oxide, Fe2O3, which along with water will also form the pyrite-like iron oxide under deep lower mantle conditions.

Why does this interest the researchers? For one thing, this type of reaction could have started in Earth's infancy, and understanding it could inform theories of our own planet's evolution, as well as its current geochemistry.

Furthermore, the H2 released in this reaction would work its way upward, possibly reacting with other materials on its way. Meanwhile, the iron oxide would settle planet's depths and form reservoirs of oxygen there, particularly if one of these patches of iron oxide moved upward along the pressure gradient to the middle part of the mantle and separated into iron and O2.

"Pools of free oxygen under these conditions could create many reactions and chemical phases, which might be responsible for seismic and geochemical signatures of the deep Earth," Mao explained.

"Our experiments mimicking mantle conditions demonstrate that more research is needed on this pyrite-like phase of iron oxide." Hu added.

The research team believes their findings could even offer an alternate explanation for the Great Oxygenation Event that changed Earth's atmosphere between 2 and 2.5 billion years ago. The rise of bacteria performing photosynthesis, which releases oxygen as a byproduct, is often considered the source of the rapid increase in atmospheric oxygen, which had previously been scarce. But releases of oxygen from upwelling of deep mantle FeO2 patches could provide an abiotic explanation for the phenomenon, they say.

###

Researchers were supported by the NSF and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Measurements were performed at the High Pressure Collaborative Access Team, Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, and the BL15U1 beamline, Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility in China. Parts of the experiments were performed at the 13BM-C experimental station of the GeoSoilEnviroCARS facility at the APS. HPCAT operations are supported by the DOE-NNSA and by the DOE-BES, with partial instrumentation funding by the NSF. 13BM-C operation is supported by COMPRES through the Partnership for Extreme Crystallography (PX2) project, under an NSF Cooperative Agreement. APS is supported by the DOE-BES.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

Media Contact

Ho-Kwang "Dave" Mao
hmao@carnegiescience.edu

 @carnegiescience

https://carnegiescience.edu/ 

Ho-Kwang "Dave" Mao | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Atmosphere Earth's mantle Oxygen atmospheric pressure ferric oxide iron oxide

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West
23.10.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>