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Earth core Report Summary

Project ID: 647723
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Earth core (Exploring Thermodynamic Properties of Earth’s Core-Forming Materials)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

• What is the problem/issue being addressed?
It is known that the Earth’s core is less dense than pure iron by about 7%, which is due to the presence of a light element(s) such as Si, S, C, O, and H. The goal of this project is to construct a thermodynamic model of the Earth’s central core. A particular focus is on the identification of the light element because the inclusion of these elements in iron liquid depends on the pressure, temperature, and chemical environment and hence provides us invaluable information about the origin and evolution of the solid Earth. We are examining phase relations and density of phases in Fe-light element systems by conducting high-pressure and -temperature experiments and employing thermodynamic calculations based on the experimental data.

• Why is it important for society?
The data obtained in this project provides us basic and critical information about the origin and evolution of the solid Earth. One of the important implications is that the nature of the light element in the core should be related to the origin of the magnetic field through geodynamo and hence the habitability of a planet. The convecting liquid iron core generates the magnetic field, which is protecting life on the surface from the harmful solar wind. The convection of the liquid outer core is driven mostly by the preferential partitioning of the light element into the liquid outer core over the solid inner core. Therefore, for a planet, just being at an appropriate distance from the central star which stabilises liquid H2O is not the sufficient condition to be habitable; presence of light elements in the core is likely another key condition. This project will bring society a better understanding of Earth’s stable magnetic field which has protected life since its birth.

• What are the overall objectives?
The key research questions that my project is trying to address are:
1. What are the thermodynamic properties of iron and iron-light elements alloy under core pressure and temperature conditions?
2. What are the light elements dissolved in the Earth’s core?
3. How was/is the origin, current state, and evolution of the Earth’s core?

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

For the reporting period, which is the first 18 months from the start, as planned, I have set up my laboratory (two separate rooms) at the School of GeoSciences of the University of Edinburgh. In parallel, I started procurement of equipment for my laboratory and now I installed major instruments. Also, I have appointed one post-doc as planned, who started in March 2016. He has been working on phase relations of an iron-light element system.
We visited synchrotron facilities in Europe to conduct in-situ high-pressure and -temperature X-ray diffraction experiments on iron alloys systems. We applied my own cutting edge technology, internal resistive heating technique in a diamond anvil cell.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

I used my own cutting edge high-pressure and –temperature experimental technique, an internally-heated diamond anvil cell in our in-situ works. This technique shows much smaller uncertainties in the pressure and temperature than the conventional laser heating system and therefore, we were able to place tight constraints on the phase relations of iron alloys systems. Our results will make it possible to deduce thermodynamic data of the systems studied.
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