Major component of the Earth’s core, the iron oxide surprised a team of scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science, when exhibit an unexpected behavior. After being subjected to extreme pressures and temperatures, the material changed the degree of electrical conduction.
When subjected to conditions similar to those presented in the Earth’s interior, much of the evidence shows dramatic changes in their properties, which are always accompanied by changes in the structure of the material.
What surprised scientists was that the iron oxide to keep its structure intact and still make significant changes in their electromagnetic properties. This finding may help to better understand how Earth’s interior gives rise to the planet’s magnetic field.
How the experiment was done
In the laboratory, the team at the Carnegie Institution for Science submitted the iron oxide pressures that reach 1.4 million ATMs (Earth’s atmospheric pressure) at sea level and temperatures of 2200 ° C, conditions similar to those found in lower layers of earth.
What they found was that the material can function both as insulation and as a driver just by changing the pressure and temperature. Using computer simulations to understand what was happening to the electrons in the material, the group obtained results show that a new type of metallization.
Even mixed with magnesium (basic composition of the mantle), iron oxide continues to conduct electricity. The fact that this material behaves like a metal means that it electrically connects the Earth’s core to the upper layers. This greatly affects the way in which the planet’s magnetic field is generated.
Although many questions have arisen with this discovery, the science is getting closer to understanding what really happens in the lower layers of our planet.