Universal viscosity growth in metallic melts at megabar pressures: the vitreous state of the Earth’s inner core
V.V. Brazhkin a
A.G. Lyapin b
a Institute for High Pressure Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Troitsk, Moscow, Russian Federation
b Institute for High Pressure Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Troitsk, Moscow, Russian Federation
Experimental data on and theoretical models for the viscosity of various types of liquids and melts under pressure are reviewed. Experimentally, the least studied melts are those of metals, whose viscosity is considered to be virtually constant along the melting curve. The authors’ new approach to the viscosity of melts involves the measurement of the grain size in solidified samples. Measurements on liquid metals at pressures up to 10 GPa using this method show, contrary to the empirical approach, that the melt viscosity grows considerably along the melting curves. Based on the experimental data and on the critical analysis of current theories, a hypothesis of a universal viscosity behavior is introduced for liquids under pressure. Extrapolating the liquid iron results to the pressures and temperatures at the Earth’s core reveals that the Earth’s outer core is a very viscous melt with viscosity values ranging from 102 Pa s to 1011 Pa s depending on the depth. The Earth’s inner core is presumably an ultraviscous (>1011 Pa s) glass-like liquid — in disagreement with the current idea of a crystalline inner core. The notion of the highly viscous interior of celestial bodies sheds light on many mysteries of planetary geophysics and astronomy. From the analysis of the pressure variation of the melting and glass-transition temperatures, an entirely new concept of a stable metallic vitreous state arises, calling for further experimental and theoretical study.