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Spin Transition Zone in Earth's Lower Mantle

Science  21 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5845, pp. 1740-1743
DOI: 10.1126/science.1144997

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Abstract

Mineral properties in Earth's lower mantle are affected by iron electronic states, but representative pressures and temperatures have not yet been probed. Spin states of iron in lower-mantle ferropericlase have been measured up to 95 gigapascals and 2000 kelvin with x-ray emission in a laser-heated diamond cell. A gradual spin transition of iron occurs over a pressure-temperature range extending from about 1000 kilometers in depth and 1900 kelvin to 2200 kilometers and 2300 kelvin in the lower mantle. Because low-spin ferropericlase exhibits higher density and faster sound velocities relative to the high-spin ferropericlase, the observed increase in low-spin (Mg,Fe)O at mid-lower mantle conditions would manifest seismically as a lower-mantle spin transition zone characterized by a steeper-than-normal density gradient.

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