Researchers recreate deep-Earth conditions to see how iron copes with extreme stress

Asia's Tech News Daily

Researchers recreate deep-Earth conditions to see how iron copes with extreme stress

Far below you lies a sphere of solid iron and nickel about as wide as the broadest part of Texas: the Earth’s inner core. The metal at the inner core is under pressure about 360 million times higher than we experience in our everyday lives and temperatures approximately as hot as the Sun’s surface.

Earth’s planetary core is thankfully intact. But in space, similar cores can collide with other objects, causing the crystalline materials of the core to deform rapidly. Some asteroids in our solar system are massive iron objects that scientists suspect are the remnants of planetary cores after catastrophic impacts.

Measuring what happens during the collision of celestial bodies or at the Earth’s core is obviously not very practical. As such, much of our understanding of planetary cores is based on experimental studies of metals at less extreme temperatures and pressures. But researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have now observed for the first time how iron’s atomic structure deforms to accommodate the stress from the pressures and temperatures that occur just outside of the inner core.

Coping with stress
Most of the iron you encounter in your everyday life has its atoms arranged in nanoscopic cubes, with an iron atom at each corner and one in the center. If you squeeze these cubes by applying extremely high pressures, they rearrange into hexagonal prisms, which allow the atoms to pack in more tightly.

The group at SLAC wanted to see what would happen if you kept applying pressure to that hexagonal arrangement to mimic what happens to iron at the Earth’s core or during atmospheric reentry from space. “We didn’t quite make inner core conditions,” says co-author Arianna Gleason, a scientist in the High-Energy Density Science (HEDS) Division at SLAC. “But we achieved the conditions of the outer core of the planet, which is really remarkable.”

No one had ever directly observed iron’s response to stress under such high temperatures and pressures before, so the researchers didn’t know how it would respond. “As we continue to push it, the iron doesn’t know what to do with this extra stress,” says Gleason. “And it needs to relieve that stress, so it tries to find the most efficient mechanism to do that.”

The coping mechanism iron uses to deal with that extra stress is called “twinning.” The arrangement of atoms shunts to the side, rotating all the hexagonal prisms by nearly 90 degrees. Twinning is a common pressure response in metals and minerals – quartz, calcite, titanium and zirconium all undergo twinning.

“Twinning allows iron to be incredibly strong – stronger than we first thought – before it starts to flow plastically on much longer time scales,” Gleason said.

A tale of two lasers
Reaching these extreme conditions required two types of lasers. The first was an optical laser, which generated a shock wave that subjected the iron sample to extremely high temperatures and pressures. The second was SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser, which allowed the researchers to observe the iron on an atomic level. “At the time, LCLS was the only facility in the world where you could do that,” says lead author Sebastien Merkel of the University of Lille in France. “It’s been a door opener for other similar facilities in the world.”

The team fired both lasers at a tiny sample of iron about the width of a human hair, hitting the iron with a shock wave of heat and pressure. “The control room is just above the experimental room,” Merkel says. “When you trigger the discharge, you hear a loud pop.”

As the shock wave hit the iron, researchers used the X-ray laser to observe how the shock changed the arrangement of the iron atoms. “We were able to make a measurement in a billionth of a second,” Gleason says. “Freezing the atoms where they are in that nanosecond is really exciting.”

The researchers collected these images and assembled them into a flipbook that showed iron deforming. Before the experiment was complete, they didn’t know if iron would respond too fast for them to measure or too slow for them to ever see. “The fact that the twinning happens on the time scale that we can measure it as an important result in itself,” Merkel says.

The future is bright
This experiment serves as a bookend for understanding the behavior of iron. Scientists had gathered experimental data on the structure of iron at lower temperatures and pressures and used it to model how iron would behave at extremely high temperatures and pressures, but no one had ever experimentally tested those models.

“Now we can give a thumbs up, thumbs down on some of the physics models for really fundamental deformation mechanisms,” Gleason says. “That helps to build up some of the predictive capability we’re lacking for modeling how materials respond at extreme conditions.”

The study provides exciting insights into the structural properties of iron at extremely high temperatures and pressures. But the results are also a promising indicator that these methods could help scientists understand how other materials behave at extreme conditions, too.

“The future is bright now that we’ve developed a way to make these measurements,” Gleason says. “The recent X-ray undulator upgrade as part of the LCLS-II project allows higher X-ray energies – enabling studies on thicker alloys and materials that have lower symmetry and more complex X-ray fingerprints.”

The upgrade will also enable researchers to observe larger samples, which will give them a more comprehensive view of iron’s atomic behavior and improve their statistics. Plus, “we’re going to get more powerful optical lasers with the approval to proceed with a new flagship petawatt laser facility, known as MEC-U,” says Gleason. “That’ll make future work even more exciting because we’ll be able to get to the Earth’s inner core conditions without any problem.”

Research Report: “Femtosecond Visualization of hcp-Iron Strength and Plasticity under Shock Compression”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Reshaping the plastic lifecycle into a circle

In 1950, 2 million metric tonnes of new plastic was produced globally. In 2018, the world produced 360 million metric tonnes of plastics. Because of their low cost, durability and ... Read more »

Dragons-Eye View

It can be hard to appreciate that a human-made, football-pitch-sized spacecraft is orbiting 400 km above our heads, but there it is. The jewel of human cooperation and ingenuity that ... Read more »

430-foot asteroid expected to swipe past Earth on Monday

An asteroid that measures the same size as the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza, is expected to pass by Earth on Monday afternoon, according to NASA. The 430-foot ... Read more »

Strong winds power electric fields in the upper atmosphere

What happens on Earth doesn’t stay on Earth. Using observations from NASA’s ICON mission, scientists presented the first direct measurements of Earth’s long-theorized dynamo on the edge of space: a ... Read more »

Arecibo data still has astronomers in a spin

Data collected by the Arecibo Radio Telescope before it collapsed late last year will help astronomers better understand how our local neighbourhood of galaxies formed. Arecibo was the world’s largest ... Read more »

Researchers team up to get a clearer picture of molten salts

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge, Brookhaven and Idaho national laboratories and Stony Brook University have developed a novel approach to gain fundamental insights into molten salts, a ... Read more »

Molding, patterning and driving liquids with light

Jiming Bao, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, has developed a new fluid that can be cut open by light and demonstrated macroscopic depression of ... Read more »

Geophysicists detect electron dance deep inside the Earth, with a Twist

Most are aware that electrons are negatively charged particles that surround the nucleus of atoms and whose behaviour governs chemical interactions. However, it is less commonly known that electrons come ... Read more »

Combining two cognitive computing nano-elements into one

Researchers at Tohoku University and the University of Gothenburg have established a new spintronic technology for brain-inspired computing. Their achievement was published in the journal Nature Materials on Nov. 29, ... Read more »

Spire Global completes acquisition of exactEarth Ltd

Spire Global has completed its previously announced acquisition of exactEarth Ltd., a leading provider of global maritime vessel data for ship tracking and maritime situational awareness solutions, by way of ... Read more »

Are Water Plumes Spraying from Europa

In 2005, images of a brilliant watery plume erupting from the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus captivated the world. The giant column of vapor, ice particles, and organic molecules spraying ... Read more »

Elon Musk: SpaceX faces possible bankruptcy because of engine woes

SpaceX founder Elon Musk told his employees the space company faces a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” because of its struggles in developing its engine for its Starship flights. In an ... Read more »

Russia's Prichal module docks at ISS

Russia’s new docking module Prichal on Friday successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS), the Russian space agency Roscosmos said. The new addition to the ISS completed an automated ... Read more »

Rocket Lab Announces Neutron Development Update to be Provided on December 2, 2021

Rocket Lab USA will provide the first major update on the development of the Neutron launch vehicle on December 2, 2021 at 8:00 am EST. The virtual event will be ... Read more »

Thales Alenia Space invests in advanced technology for human space flight

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%, has inaugurated a new Friction Stir Welding facility at one of its production sites in Turin, which will ... Read more »

Prototype SETI hardware gets first data from VLA

A system designed to provide data from the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) for analysis in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has successfully acquired ... Read more »

Russia's new docking module arrives at ISS

The five-ton Prichal docking module arrived at the International Space Station at 10:19 a.m. EST, propelled by a modified Russian Progress propulsion compartment. They docked to the Nauka module on ... Read more »

Gaia reveals that most Milky Way companion galaxies are newcomers to our corner of space

Data from ESA’s Gaia mission is re-writing the history of our galaxy, the Milky Way. What had traditionally been thought of as satellite galaxies to the Milky Way are now ... Read more »

Eagle professor's space debris removal device receives patent

An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor and his co-inventors patented a device that provides a workable strategy for combating the problem of debris accumulating in space from defunct satellites. Known as ... Read more »

Pulsar Fusion Demonstrates Green Mach-7 rocket in Switzerland

On Saturday 26 November, In the sleepy mountain town of Gstaad – Switzerland, British company Pulsar Fusion demonstrated its latest green hybrid rocket engine. An impressive visual plume effect of ... Read more »

Apply now to the brand new ESA Junior Professional Programme!

Positions are now open for Junior Professionals! Do you have a strong interest in space? Do you aspire to channel your knowledge, interest and experience into a career in the ... Read more »

Carrier rocket takes off from Sichuan province

China launched a Long March 3B carrier rocket early on Saturday morning to send a communication satellite into space, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the country’s leading ... Read more »

NASA and industry embrace laser communications

Our televisions and computer screens display news, movies, and shows in high-definition, allowing viewers a clear and vibrant experience. Fiber optic connections send laser light densely packed with data through ... Read more »

New opportunities to study ions in space

Comets have an environment of plasma which contains a large number of ions with low energies. It is necessary to understand these low-energy ions’ properties in order to understand the ... Read more »

Study suggests Sun is likely an unaccounted source of the Earth's water

Curtin University researchers have helped unravel the enduring mystery of the origins of the Earth’s water, finding the Sun to be a surprising likely source. A University of Glasgow-led international ... Read more »

Astronomers discover ancient brown dwarf with lithium deposits intact

A team of researchers at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica (INAOE), Mexico, has discovered lithium in the oldest and ... Read more »

In the quantum realm, not even time flows as you might expect

A team of physicists at the Universities of Bristol, Vienna, the Balearic Islands and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI-Vienna) has shown how quantum systems can simultaneously ... Read more »

Russia launches new docking module to ISS

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the new Prichal docking module for the International Space Station blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the Roscosmos space agency said. ... Read more »

Orbital harmony limits late arrival of water on TRAPPIST-1 planets

Seven Earth-sized planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1 in near-perfect harmony, and U.S. and European researchers have used that harmony to determine how much physical abuse the planets could have withstood ... Read more »

FCC Validates SES Phase I Accelerated C-band Clearing and Relocation Certification

SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, announces the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has validated the certification of SES’s Phase I accelerated C-band clearing and relocation activities, a ... Read more »

Astroscale space debris removal leaders announce series F raises $109 million

Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced it closed its Series F round with additional funding of U.S. ... Read more »

New possibilities for life at the bottom of Oceanic Worlds

In the strange, dark world of the ocean floor, underwater fissures, called hydrothermal vents, host complex communities of life. These vents belch scorching hot fluids into extremely cold seawater, creating ... Read more »

Doing photon upconversion a solid-Crystals that convert light to more useful wavelengths

Solid-solution organic crystals have been brought into the quest for superior photon upconversion materials, which transform presently wasted long-wavelength light into more useful shorter wavelength light. Scientists from Tokyo Institute ... Read more »

Mom and daughter bound for space after winning Virgin Galactic prize

A health coach from Antigua and Barbuda has won two tickets worth almost $1 million to be among Virgin Galactic’s first space tourists — and plans to take the trip ... Read more »

ISRO rife with speculation about human space mission centre, IN-SPACe shift

With speculations and rumours abounding on shifting of its human space mission centre and the headquarters of private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), officials ... Read more »

Rocket industrial park put into operation in Wuhan

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC) said that it completed the construction of an intelligent satellite production line and a rocket industrial park in the central Chinese ... Read more »

Tianzhou cargo craft to help advance science

Chinese scientists, researchers and engineers now have the opportunity to use the country’s robotic cargo spacecraft to carry out experiments and tests, according to the China Manned Space Agency. The ... Read more »

First LoRa message bounced off the moon

For the first time ever we bounced a LoRa message off the moon on October 5th 2021, using the Dwingeloo radio telescope. This first was achieved by a team consisting ... Read more »

ESA helps Greece to boost its space investments

Ambitious plans to expand the nascent space industry in Greece – enabling the digital transformation of society while creating jobs and generating prosperity – have received a fillip from ESA. ... Read more »

Testing confirms Webb Telescope on track for targeted Dec 22 lLaunch

Engineering teams have completed additional testing confirming NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is ready for flight, and launch preparations are resuming toward Webb’s target launch date of Wednesday, Dec. 22, ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic