New Candidate For ‘The Missing Element’ Within The Earth’s Core
Scientists in Japan believe that they have established the identity of “the missing element” from within the Earth’s Core.
Scientists have been searching the element for decades, believing that the element would make up a significant proportion of the Earth’s centre, after nickel and iron.
The experiments suggested that the most likely candidate is silicon after recreating the high temperatures and pressures in the deep interior.
The discovery would help the scientists to understand better about how our world formed.
Eiji Ohtani, the Lead researcher from the University of Tohoku, told the BBC News that they believe that silicon is a significant element of about 5% of the Earth’s inner core by weight and that could dissolve into the iron-nickel alloys.
The Earth’s inner part was thought to be a solid ball of about 1,200km in radius.
The scientists study how seismic waves pass through this region since it is far too deep to investigate about the new candidate directly and to tell them something about its make-up.
The Earth is mainly composed of iron, which makes up an estimation of about 85% of its weight, and nickel, which accounts 10% of the core weight. When added around 5% of weight is unaccounted.
Eiji Ohtani and his team members began investigating by creating the alloys of iron and nickel and mixed them with the silicon. The team then subjected the mixture to the immense pressures and temperatures that exist in the Earth’s inner core.
They found from the seismic data that this blend matched with what was seen in the Earth’s interior.
Prof Ohtani said that even more of work was needed to confirm the presence of silicon and which did not rule out the existence of other elements.
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Prof Simon Redfern from the University of Cambridge, UK, commented that these complicated experiments were exciting and they could provide information into what Earth’s interior was like soon after it was first formed when the core first started to separate from the harder parts of Earth, of about 4.5 billion years ago.
Other workers have also recently suggested that the oxygen might also be an important element in the Earth’s core.
Prof Simon Redfern said that knowing what was there could help the scientists to understand better about the conditions prevailed at the time of Earth’s formation.
The research would provide information whether Earth’s early interior was filled with limited oxygen known as the reducing condition or the filled with abundant oxygen known as an oxidising condition.
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As suggested by Prof Ohtani’s results, if a larger amount of silicon had been found in Earth’s core for more than four billion years ago, then the rest of the planet would be filled with rich oxygen supply.
But instead, if oxygen were sucked into the earth’s core then that would leave the rocky mantle surrounding the core to be depleted.
Prof Redfern said that these two options were real alternatives that depend on the conditions existed when the Earth’s core first begins to form.
He also said that the most recent results add to the understanding and he suspected that they were by no means the last word on the story.
Prof Ohtani presented his research at the recent Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.