Iron: Beta Phase Frays

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Science  31 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5339, pp. 821-822
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5339.821

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Earth's core is almost entirely iron, so geoscientists are keenly interested in the properties of this element at high temperature and pressure. In his Perspective, Anderson discusses the results reported in the same issue by Andrault et al. in which they identify a controversial phase of iron--the b phase. The existence and structure of this phase has been debated since it was first reported by a group at Uppsala University. The measurements of Andrault et al., taken with a synchrotron at Grenoble, support the existence of this phase but suggest that it has a different structure than first believed. Anderson reviews the controversy and discusses the latest experimental findings.