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The Earth's Core Is Cooling More Rapidly Than Scientists Had Expected

We may be living on the brink of a lifeless wasteland in less time than we think.

Scientists from ETH Zürich in Switzerland and the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington, D.C. think Earth's core is cooling faster than previously thought (CIS). That implies we have less time until our blue world is transformed into a lifeless new Mars. According to a recent study, the answer might be as simple as the heat transfer that occurs when you step on a chilly floor in the winter.

Bridgmanite (MgSiO3-perovskite) is the dominant mineral in Earth's mantle, named after Nobel Prize-winning high-pressure chemist Percy Williams Bridgman. In 2014, scientists for the first time studied the material up close, having known about it for decades. Unless you include a meteorite piece that landed in Australia in the 1800s, the Earth's mantle is so vast and deep that bridgmanite is one of the most frequent minerals on the planet without ever having been close to the surface.

An investigation into the transport of heat from our planet's core to its somewhat colder mantle has long been a mystery to scientists. As the core may reach temperatures of 6,000 degrees Celsius, it is impossible to replicate in a safe laboratory environment. On top of that, bridgmanite must be synthesized due to a dearth of the mineral on the planet's surface.

Scientists at ETH and CIS had to come up with a novel approach to investigate these materials in the lab in order to overcome this old laboratory issue. Using a pair of diamond anvils and a little quantity of bridgmanite, they were able to replicate the intense pressure that hits Earth's core and mantle. In a recent publication published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the researchers describe this mechanism in detail.

When it came to temperature, a pulsed laser was used to raise temperatures high enough to explore how bridgmanite transfers heat from the core of Earth. Bridgmanite's heat conductivity was measured for the first time thanks to the high pressure and high temperature combined with the robust diamond anvils.

Motohiko Murakami, an ETH professor, claims that the clever technique swiftly produced results. The heat conductivity of bridgmanite was found to be 1.5 times greater than previously thought, according to a prepared statement from the researcher. It may not seem like much, but consider that it's a 50% higher rate that directly impacts the longevity of our world as a place to live in.

As it cools, bridgmanite transforms into a new mineral called post-perovskite, creating a cascading effect. More post-perovskite forms because bridgmanite cools more quickly than expected owing to heat transmission. Even more heat is transferred out from the core and into the mantle by the post-perovskite.

We don't know exactly when this cooling will begin, but we do know that it will come sooner than previously predicted. There are certain people that may serve as role models for us, he points out: In his own words, "Our discoveries might provide us a fresh viewpoint on the development of Earth's dynamics," Murakami claims. There is some evidence to indicate that Earth, like Mercury and Mars (both rocky planets), is cooling and becoming inactive at a quicker rate than anticipated.

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