Sound Speed of Liquid Iron Along the Outer Core Isentrope: New Pre-heated Ramp Compression Experiments
Abstract:Detailed elasticity data on liquid Fe and candidate molten core alloys should offer new constraints on the under-constrained problem of Earth's core composition. Density, sound speed, and the gradient in sound speed with pressure are each potentially distinct experimental constraints and are each well-known for Earth. The gradient in sound speed, though, has not been used because sound speed depends on both T and P, such that data must be collected or reconstructed along the correct, nearly adiabatic, thermal profile. Reconstruction requires the Grüneisen γ, which is composition-dependent, and data over a large P-T space to allow extrapolation. Both static and dynamic compression methods could be used, but the conditions (140 - 330 GPa and 4000 - 6000 K) are very challenging for static methods and standard shock compression only samples the outer core P-T profile at a single P. Instead we are applying quasi-isentropic dynamic ramp compression, using pre-heating of the target and impedance of the leading edge of a graded-density impactor (GDI) to select a probable outer core isentrope. The target material is melted and raised to a point on the outer core isentrope by the initial shock, then quasi-isentropically ramped to a maximum P by increasing shock impedance of trailing GDI layers. Particle velocity is monitored by photonic doppler velocimetry (PDV) at two step thicknesses at the interface of Fe or Fe-alloy target and MgO windows. The difference in arrival time of each particle velocity at the two steps directly gives the Lagrangian sound speed vs. particle velocity, which is integrated to obtain Pand density.
At the writing of this abstract, we have completed one shot of this type. We successfully heated a two-step Fe target in a Mo capsule with MgO windows to 1350 °C, maintaining sufficient alignment and reflectivity to collect PDV signal returns. We characterized the velocity correction factor for PDV observation through MgO windows, and have confirmed that MgO remains sufficiently transparent on this loading path to act as a window. Our shot used a Mg-Ta graded density impactor launched at 5.6 km/s by the Caltech two-stage light gas gun, providing continuous sampling of the sound speed of liquid Fe from 70 GPa and ~2800 K up the isentrope to 243 GPa. Analysis continues. Prepared by LLNL under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344