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New Kind of Metal Theorized To Be In the Earth's Lower Mantle 117

slew writes "This article talks about a study accepted to Physical Review Letters which theorizes that iron oxide goes through an insulator/metal phase change with high temperature and pressure. Originally it was thought to be a crystalline structure change, but now apparently it is theorized to be a new type of metallic state. This discovery might offer new insight on how the earth's magnetic field operates."
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New Kind of Metal Theorized To Be In the Earth's Lower Mantle

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  • by umberjon ( 2471326 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @07:57AM (#38446772)
    dig a hole?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because they don't have enough unobtainium.

      • The stuff invented by a washed-up inventor living in the desert, or the stuff buried underground on a distant planet?
    • ...and create a new volcano.
      • by JazzLad ( 935151 )
        Fracking [wikipedia.org] is perfectly safe, right? Why don't we use that method?

        (set irony detector to maximum before modding, please)
    • by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @08:04AM (#38446812)

      Because they are theorizing about layers of the core from which we can't even get a core sample, let alone a good look at. Deepest hole ever drilled is something like 12km and the depth at which this shit is is more in the 1000-2000km range than the 12km range.

      It should be noted that the reason that they had to stop @ 12km was that we havent been able to engineer any drill bits that can withstand the heat much below that. 15km is the theorized maximum drill depth with current technology but no one has even gotten close to that. Last attempt was still over 2km off.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But they've gotten to the center... I saw it in that film.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by SJHillman ( 1966756 )
          And I read it in the autobiography of that Jules Verne guy. He did a lot of cool stuff in all his autobiographies. Changed his name a lot too...
        • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @08:50AM (#38447062)

          They never did get to the Centre. (Arne Saknussen claimed he did, but there is no proof)
          They got as far down as the Liddenbruch Sea, but when they tried going futher down, they found a big rock had fallen and blocked further descent.
          After deciding to blow it up and setting the charge, they put out to sea for safety. with the explosion the sea poured into the hole, their raft was sucked into it too. they went down a bit but then there was a volcanic eruption and they got blown up through Mt Etna
          So they went back to Germany, Axel married Grauben, and they lived happily ever after.

        • by Rick17JJ ( 744063 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @01:45PM (#38450748)

          I also read about it in Tarzan at the Earths core by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That book describes how the Earth is hollow, with openings to the inhabitable inner world at the north and south poles.

          In that book, Jason Gridley decided to build a rigid airship, using helium, with sufficient range to fly through the polar opening to the inner world and back. But, he was unsure how to build a hull that was sufficiently strong and light that could survive the conditions along the way. Not sure how to solve that problem, he traveled to the jungles of Africa to ask Tarzan for his advice. Fortunately, Tarzan had recently heard about a nearby lake-dwelling tribe that was using canoes made of a metal that was as strong as steel and as light as cork.

          The book said that inner world had accidentally been discovered previously by David Innes and Abner Perry who had been planning to look for anthracite coal with their newly invented mechanical prospector. But, on their trial voyage, their steering mechanism jammed and they accidentally drilled 500 miles down into the Earth's core, reaching the hollow inner world. Perry remained behind, while Innes made the difficult trip back to the surface. The book does not mention them having any problems with the drilling mechanism becoming too hot.

          Jason and Tarzan went on to build their 997 foot long airship from harbenite. Jason knew that Tarzan's skills would prove useful one the reached the Earth's core.

          • by jandrese ( 485 )
            That summary gave me brain damage.
          • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
            One correction; the airship hull was so strong and light that they were able to fill it with vacuum, which has even more lifting power than helium.
      • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @08:14AM (#38446864)

        I'm guessing it would be easier to simulate the pressure and temperature of this part of the core than to actually go there...

      • by mistigri ( 152379 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @09:31AM (#38447406)

        The Kola Superdeep Borehole is the deepest, reaching 12,262 metres (40,230 ft).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kola_Superdeep_Borehole [wikipedia.org]

        • I'm sorry, twelve and a quarter kilometres, which still fits with my "They were still over 2km off the 15km mark"

          Thanks for the link though.

      • any drill bits that can withstand the heat much below that

        Is this geothermal heat (combined with the heat of drilling, I assume)?

        Is the problem that it's too hard to pump coolant down there to keep the drill cool? I really have no idea what the temps are like at that depth - does water flash to steam?

        Or maybe it's not hot enough and they just wind up with a pool of really hot water and incredible challenges to pump it back up? I can't imagine pumping water 12km straight up. Actually, any engineering achi

        • Its 370 Degrees at that depth.

          Its not purely geothermal, but a lot of it has to do with pressure as well, however the ambient starting temp is 370 degrees, so as soon as there is any sort of friction and drilling action, yes, water will flash to steam. The coolants they use past even 8km are far more suited than water.

      • But, but...in Ninja Turtles....they....[runs to his room crying]

    • dig a hole?

      Damn, I knew I should have put a smiley at the end.

  • by jimmydigital ( 267697 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @08:12AM (#38446844) Homepage Journal

    ... is so metal!

  • ...diamond pickaxe ready,
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They theorize that iron oxide becomes metallic at 1.4 million atmospheres (140 GPa) while also at ~2,200 deg C. If i'm not mistaken, is this P-T range way outside the capabilities of a diamond anvil press? Would this have to be an impact or laser shock experiment?

    • by sensei moreh ( 868829 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @09:40AM (#38447476)
      Back when I was in grad school, high-end diamond anvil cells were typically achieving pressures on the order of 1 Mbar; so 140 GPa certainly sounds reasonable. Laser heating should enable one to get to 2200 deg C and beyond quite easily. I only got to play with our cell at room temperature.
      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        But diamond is a ridiculously excellent thermal conductor. Are you sure the diamond anvil won't suck the heat away? It also seems to me that the metal gasket in the diamond anvil would probably get pretty wasted at 2200 C. If you heat the whole diamond, what's going to happen to the supporting structure?

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Diamond also burns at 900C, so better make sure the oxide part of the iron doesn't want to oxide the diamond.
        • I never worked with a laser heating system, but the idea is to use a frequency to which the diamonds are transparent. The quantity of test material within the cell is small enough that the total amount of heat absorbed by the test material is extremely small.
  • by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @09:15AM (#38447242) Homepage Journal

    Gravity comes from a magnetic field, and that is produced because we have a big magnet like metal compound inside the earth, and I know that crystal is not able to become magnetized, so it all makes sense to me!

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @09:43AM (#38447502) Homepage

    Its just a metal compound that conducts under these conditions. As they say, it doesn't even change its structure.

    • The term "metal" refers as much to the physical properties of the substance as it does to structure or composition. It basically just means you have a cloud of free electrons (oversimplification). Although it depends on exactly how you define it, the term can apply to compounds or substances in certain states which are otherwise not metallic (such as hydrogen: not a metal in the conventional sense, but can theoretically become one). The fact it doesn't change structure but still exhibits metallic properties
  • Ho hum... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is a *press release* folks. It describes in detail what was and was not found and what part of that is new. The answer is NOT MUCH NEW HERE. What's unfortunate is that when the press picks something like this up, they strip off the "boring stuff" and make it into the breakthrough it's not. Read the release: The metalizaiton of iron oxide at high pressure was known. What is new is the its crystal structure does not change. That's why it's in Phys Rev B and not Nature.

  • The scientists dug too greedily and too deep.

  • I have had enough new metal for a lifetime. I had finally recovered from the emergence of Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach. If they are looking for a name, they should consider Kornium.
  • That's all well and good, but how does this affect the timeline for getting unbreakable bones and claws installed?
    • Magnetic field this and magnetic field that, I don't see what's so important with Earth's magnetic fields. You can't land a plane on it, can't fight a battle on it, can't plow it, livestock can't graze on it, can't go long for a pass down the center of it and you can't sit on your porch, feet up, admiring the Sun setting behind it.

      Anyway, the Earth's magnetic field has nothing to do with molten metal at the Earth's core (like... in the ground? How's it gonna do anything there?). Millennia of historical an

  • ...Transparent Aluminum. Mystery solved! Scotty: beam me up.
  • "The Core" [bbc.co.uk] is a recent, hour-long documentary that provides some illustrative background (and CG) for the iron crystal theory, and explains some of the major difficulties in drilling below the crust. It's an episode of Horizon [bbc.co.uk], a long-running science documentary series. You can watch the entire episode [youtube.com] in 720p on YouTube.

  • It's too bad that nobody has proposed a theory that could be measured for each planet in our solar system and tested against a prior prediction to see if it is accurate. That would be the perfect scientific solution to the problem of planetary magnetic fields.

    Or maybe someone has (article from before Voyager launched, summary from after it passed Neptune): Article [creationresearch.org] Summary [icr.org]

    One commentator says, "you would have thought we would have given up guessing about planetary magnetic fields after being wrong at nea

    • How did this get modded up? didn't follow links eh!
      6000 year creationist explaining magnetic fields of planets created as water and transformed into other matter,
      and as for fluctuating fields, quoting from linked
      The Earth's field could, for example, have decayed steadily from creation to the Flood, reversed rapidly many times during the upheavals of the Flood, and afterwards resumed its steady decay

      My God, I'm feeding trolls

  • May I quote an ethnologist : "Through a talisman made of a strange metal given to him by a local chieftain, he unearths a strange cylinder made of the same unidentifiable metal full of hideous engravings and strange hieroglyphics."
  • Can't wait for my new rust based electronics. Of course the 3000f operating temperature and 690k ATM pressures might make them unsuitable for mobile electronics.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva