The high-pressure electronic spin transition in iron: Potential impacts upon mantle mixing

M. H. Shahnas, W. R. Peltier, Z. Wu, R. Wentzcovitch

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At the Rayleigh number appropriate to Earth's mantle, radial heat transport is dominated by solid state thermal convection. Because of the large number of physical properties required to determine the Rayleigh number, and because these properties are expected to be (perhaps strong) functions of pressure and temperature (P-T), laboratory measurements of them under the high pressure and temperature conditions that occur in the deep Earth are of fundamental importance. Recent experimental data demonstrate that an electronic spin transition in iron that occurs at midmantle depths results in significant changes in the physical properties of the ferropericlase component of mantle mineralogy. Additional recent results suggest that it may also exist in the dominant perovskite component. Using control volume based numerical models we investigate the impacts on mantle mixing of this spin transition through its influence on the most important subset of these physical properties, namely density, thermal expansivity, bulk modulus and heat capacity. Our numerical model results demonstrate that this electronic transition enhances mixing in the lower regions of the lower mantle by enhancing the vigor of rising plumes. The lowermost region of the mantle is slightly warmed and the upper mantle slightly cooled by spin-induced effects. However, the spin crossover in the lower mantle appears not to significantly influence mantle layering. Due to the competition that could exist between the strength of the spin-induced thermodynamic properties of ferropericlase and perovskite, cold descending thermal anomalies could stagnate at middle-to-lower mantle depths and lead to the occurrence of "mid mantle avalanches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB08205
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

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