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Carbon partitioning between the Earth's inner and outer core

Li, Y; Vočadlo, L; Alfè, D; Brodholt, J; (2019) Carbon partitioning between the Earth's inner and outer core. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth , 124 (12) pp. 12812-12824. 10.1029/2019jb018789. Green open access

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Abstract

Knowledge of the abundance and distribution of light elements in the core is fundamental to the understanding of the Earth and other planetary systems. Recent studies (Li et al., 2018; Mashino et al., 2019) suggest the particular importance of carbon for explaining core properties, yet knowledge of carbon partitioning between the outer and inner core is unknown. By using the quasiharmonic approximation, ab initio molecular dynamics, and thermodynamic integration techniques, we have computed the chemical potential of carbon in liquid Fe and solid hcp‐Fe at core conditions. We find that substitutional carbon is more stable than interstitial carbon and other carbon defect cluster structures in solid Fe. Lattice strain and overcoordination effects lead to a high chemical potential of C in solid Fe compared to the liquid, and consequently carbon partitions almost completely into the liquid. We find that carbon can account for most of the density jump at the inner‐core boundary. This provides an alternative mechanism to the necessity of an oxygen‐rich outer core and may have significant implications for the composition and structure of the deep Earth.

Type: Article
Title: Carbon partitioning between the Earth's inner and outer core
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1029/2019jb018789
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JB018789
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10088161
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