Experimental Evidence for a New Iron Phase and Implications for Earth's Core

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  28 May 1993:
Vol. 260, Issue 5112, pp. 1312-1314
DOI: 10.1126/science.260.5112.1312


Iron is known to occur in four different crystal structural forms. One of these, the densest form (ε phase, hexagonal close-packed) is considered to have formed Earth's core. Theoretical arguments based on available high-temperature and high-pressure iron data indicate the possibility of a fifth less dense iron phase forming the core. Study of iron phase transition conducted between pressures of 20 to 100 gigapascals and 1000 to 2200 Kelvin provides an experimental confirmation of the existence of this new phase. Thee ε iron phase transforms to this lower density phase before melting. The new phase may form a large part of Earth's core.