on Nov 25, 2013
A team of European scientists has gathered new evidence on the behavior of silica-rich molten rock deep in Earth’s interior. At high temperatures and pressures simulated in the laboratory, scientists observed structural changes in the silicon atoms that affected the density of the molten material. Such changes may have led to two magma oceans separated by a layer of crystalline material in the mantle during the early formative period of the Earth. The research was published on November 7, 2013 in the journal Nature.
Earth was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, and at first, it was largely covered in hot molten rock. Slowly the Earth cooled and a crust formed. Today, the Earth is composed of several layers that consist of the solid crust, the relatively solid mantle, the liquid outer core and the solid inner core.
While scientists cannot take samples from deep within Earth’s interior, they can learn a good bit about the mantle by subjecting samples of volcanic rock to similar high temperatures and pressures in the laboratory. New research facilities are enabling these studies to take place at ever higher pressures, which is producing data about ever deeper depths.