Crystal structure and equation of state of Fe-Si alloys at super-Earth core conditions

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Science Advances  25 Apr 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 4, eaao5864
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao5864

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The high-pressure behavior of Fe alloys governs the interior structure and dynamics of super-Earths, rocky extrasolar planets that could be as much as 10 times more massive than Earth. In experiments reaching up to 1300 GPa, we combine laser-driven dynamic ramp compression with in situ x-ray diffraction to study the effect of composition on the crystal structure and density of Fe-Si alloys, a potential constituent of super-Earth cores. We find that Fe-Si alloy with 7 weight % (wt %) Si adopts the hexagonal close-packed structure over the measured pressure range, whereas Fe-15wt%Si is observed in a body-centered cubic structure. This study represents the first experimental determination of the density and crystal structure of Fe-Si alloys at pressures corresponding to the center of a ~3–Earth mass terrestrial planet. Our results allow for direct determination of the effects of light elements on core radius, density, and pressures for these planets.

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