Posted in | Quantum Optics

Laser Experiments Provide Useful Insight into Earth’s Core

An international team of researchers have discovered new insights into the metallic core at the Earth’s center. The findings could help comprehend how the Earth was formed from elements in space about 10 billion years ago.

Furthermore, they could offer insight into the fundamental physical nature of nitrogen, one of the most plentiful elements in the atmosphere.

Extreme conditions

The scientists performed complex experiments to imitate conditions at the Earth’s core.

With the aid of high energy laser beams and optical sensors, they managed to observe how samples of nitrogen acted at more than 1 million times normal atmospheric pressure and temperatures beyond 3,000 °C.

Their observations established that, under such environment, nitrogen exists as a liquid metal.

Planetary formation

The findings provide researchers with helpful insight into how nitrogen acts at extreme conditions, which could help in understanding how the planets came into existence.

It may help to clarify why Earth is the only planet identified to have plenty of nitrogen in its atmosphere, where it is found in the form of a gas.

Nitrogen in the air could materialize from deeper within the planet, where, for instance, it could combine with other liquid metals.

The research findings could also offer insight on how the planet’s atmosphere came to be and how it may change in the future.

Their research, carried out by the University of Edinburgh with scientists in China and the US, was reported in Nature Communications.

It was aided by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council and the British Council.

Earth's atmosphere is the only one of all the planets where nitrogen is the main ingredient - greater even than oxygen. Our study shows this nitrogen could have emerged from deep inside the planet.

Dr Stewart McWilliams, University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy

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