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Jul 21 / Dave Schumaker

Iron’s effect on seismic waves in mantle

In a new study to be published in the July 21st issue of Nature, researchers from the Carnegie Institution of Washington have discovered that the seismic properties of the mantle aren’t as simplified as originally thought. Experiments show anomalies in waves moving through a region of the lower mantle. “Until this research, scientists have simplified the effects of iron on mantle materials. It is the most abundant transition metal in the planet and our results are not what scientists have predicted,” he continued. “We may have to reconsider what we think is going in that hidden zone. It’s much more complex than we imagined.” The crushing pressures in the lower mantle squeeze atoms and electrons so closely together that they interact differently from under normal conditions, even forcing spinning electrons to pair up in orbits. In theory, seismic-wave behavior at those depths may result from the vice-gripping pressure effect on the electron spin-state of iron in lower-mantle materials.

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