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December 21, 2011
The protagonist is iron oxide, also known as FeO, which was subjected to conditions similar to those that exist where the inner layers of the Earth come together and showed different behavior than expected.
What was surprising was that the metal structure has not changed, according to the investigators reported in Physical Review Letters, and the discovery may shed new light on the understanding, incomplete, you have the heart of our planet.
Although changes in the properties of many metals are a common phenomenon when subjected to extraordinary pressures or temperatures, these are often accompanied by a change of structure.
The changes may be reflected in how the atoms are patterns of certain crystals to computer, or even in the arrangement of subatomic particles around the nucleus.
A team at the Carnegie Institution for Science submitted the material to a pressure equivalent to 1.4 million times atmospheric pressure at sea level and temperatures of 2,200 degrees Celsius.
They found that performs the trick of changing their electrically conductive properties of no consequence in structure and can be conductive or insulating depending solely on temperature and pressure.
"At high temperatures, the atoms in the iron oxide crystals are ordered with the same structure as table salt," said Ronald Cohen, co-author of the study. "Like table salt, iron oxide is a good insulator at room temperature, does not conduct electricity," said the author.
"Our study shows that iron oxide is metallized without any change in structure but it takes a combination of temperature and pressure. In addition, we see that the way electrons behave to make metal is different from other materials that have this property, "said Cohen.
The Earth's mantle, the outer solid to the core, consists of a mixture of magnesium and iron oxide. The fact that the oxide behaves as a metal means that electronically connects the core and mantle, affecting the way in which the magnetic field reaches the surface of the earth and beyond.
Fascination with the center of the Earth
Despite fascinated generations of scientists and scholars, the center of the earth, some 3,000 kilometers below sea level, is still beyond the reach of man, so that experiments should be conducted in controlled environments to imagine what conditions are like thousands of miles below.
One of the reasons for the scientific importance of the Earth's core is the magnetic field which causes vital to life on the surface.
It serves as a navigation tool, and help the bees, turtles and dozens of species of birds and butterflies to find their destiny in their long migrations.
It also serves as a barrier against the dangers of space radiation and protects us from solar wind.
But a trip to the basement can not be ground for beginners due to the drastic increase in temperature and pressure as you approach.
Even with holes remotely controlled, deep penetration has been achieved so far have been about 12 miles, only 0.2% of the road that separates us from the center of our planet.