Melting of Iron Close to the Inner Core Boundary Pressure

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Richard G Kraus, Federica Coppari, Dayne E Fratanduono, Jon Eggert and Gilbert Wilson Collins, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States
The melting curve of iron at the pressure of the inner core boundary places a strong constraint on the thermal profile within the Earth, the heat flux to the mantle, and also the power to drive the geodynamo. Recent static diamond anvil cell measurements by Anzellini et al. 2013 have accurately measured the melting curve of iron to 200 GPa, which is a tremendous improvement in the available data but is still only 60% of the pressure at the inner core boundary, and thus requires significant extrapolation. Nguyen and Holmes, 2004, have used the sound velocity technique to measure the melting transition on the principal Hugoniot, up to 270 GPa, but some still believe that sound velocity is not an accurate diagnostic of melting as it detects a loss of strength and also that kinetics can mitigate the utility of dynamic melting techniques.

Here we use in-situ x-ray diffraction to unambiguously measure the melting transition on the principal Hugoniot of iron to 270 GPa. We also show that iron melts from the hcp phase at pressures up to 270 GPa, which is significantly closer to the inner core boundary than any previous melting curve measurement capable of phase discrimination. From comparison of our measurements to those of Nguyen and Holmes, we show that sound velocity measurements can accurately constrain the melting curve and that the kinetics of melting iron are faster than both laser shock and gas gun experimental timescales. Thereby, dynamic techniques should be trusted for probing the melting curve of metals and they also offer the greatest opportunity to probe the melting curve of iron at the pressure of the inner core boundary and also the higher pressures achieved within the interiors of super-Earths. This work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344.