Origin of the Low Rigidity of the Earth's Inner Core

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Science  15 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5831, pp. 1603-1605
DOI: 10.1126/science.1141374

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Earth's solid-iron inner core has a low rigidity that manifests itself in the anomalously low velocities of shear waves as compared to shear wave velocities measured in iron alloys. Normally, when estimating the elastic properties of a polycrystal, one calculates an average over different orientations of a single crystal. This approach does not take into account the grain boundaries and defects that are likely to be abundant at high temperatures relevant for the inner core conditions. By using molecular dynamics simulations, we show that, if defects are considered, the calculated shear modulus and shear wave velocity decrease dramatically as compared to those estimates obtained from the averaged single-crystal values. Thus, the low shear wave velocity in the inner core is explained.

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