It is not known for sure what type of matter is present in the center of the earth. This new study has come close to determining it.
A physicist, Yu He, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences physicist, along with his colleagues has determined that our planet’s inner core is in a “superionic state,” which is technically neither a solid nor a liquid but an unusual intermediate state.
“It is quite abnormal,” he said. “The solidification of iron at the inner core boundary does not change the mobility of these light elements, and the convection of light elements is continuous in the inner core.”
It is still not possible to manually drill down the center of the earth and put an end to the mystery. The team has chosen to its hellish pressures and temperatures using a computer.
As detailed in a study published in the journal Nature earlier this month, the team discovered that the swirling mix of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon was in a superionic state. This means that oxygen ions had formed a solid, while hydrogen ions floated around to form a kind of liquid. The iron atoms, however, were set in a crystalline structure.
“We find that hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon in hexagonal close-packed iron transform to a superionic state under the inner core conditions, showing high diffusion coefficients like a liquid,” the team writes in its paper. “This suggests that the inner core can be in a superionic state rather than a normal solid-state.”
“Our results fit well with seismological observations,” He argued in the statement. “It is the liquid-like elements that make the inner core soften.”