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Silicon identified as ‘missing element’ in Earth’s core

According to the researchers, silicon makes up a significant proportion of Earth’s core after iron and nickel. It was missing element in the deep interiors of the Earth.

Jan 18, 2017 16:03 IST
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Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan in January 2017 discovered that Silicon (Si) is the ‘missing element’ in the Earth’s core.

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According to the researchers, silicon makes up a significant proportion of Earth’s core after iron and nickel. It was missing element in the deep interiors of the Earth.

This discovery could help the scientists in better understanding of how the world was formed. For the study, researchers recreated the high temperatures and pressures found in the deep interior of the Earth.

Key Highlights

• Earth consists of four general sections- the outermost being the Crust where we live, below that is the Mantle which makes up Earth’s volume, then follows the Core which is around 2200 miles in diameter.
• Core is separated into the outer and inner core. The inner core is 760 miles in diameter and is incredibly hot at more than 5400 degrees Celsius. It is this region that is of particular interest to scientists. The outer core is a highly viscous fluid.
• The inner core is mostly composed of nickel and iron in a 10-85 percent split respectively. It is this missing 5 percent that was the topic of research in the study from Tohoku University.
• The innermost part of the Earth is a solid ball with a radius of about 1200 kilometres.

Methodology
• In order to assess different elements as components of the core, the Tohoku University team created a scale model of it in the laboratory.
• They used samples of nickel and iron and mixed in silicon.
• The resulting alloy was subjected to high temperature and pressure as it would experience in the inner core.
• The behaviour of this alloy was a good match for the seismic data acquired from observing the Earth’s core.

 

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