Stanford University researcher Arianna Gleason and assistant professor Wendy Mao say they discovered that the Earth's inner core is much weaker than had been previously thought in a report released Thursday.
After squeezing small amounts of iron between two diamonds to simulate the pressures deep within Earth, the two Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences researchers determined that the core is roughly 60 percent weaker than past experiments have concluded. The device they used, a diamond anvil cell, can compress materials with extreme pressures that can exceed 300 gigapascals -- about the amount of pressure that the Earth exerts on its inner core.
"This strength measurement can help us understand how the core deforms over long time scales, which influences how we think about Earth's evolution and planetary evolution in general," Gleason said in a press release.
Previous experiments on the inner core were only able to produce 10 gigapascals of pressure. Gleason credits their ability to recreate the seismic pressure with new developments in pressure-generation techniques and detector sensitivity.
Although scientists now have an idea as to how strong the inner core really is, Gleason and Mao were not able to simultaneously produce the inner core's extreme temperatures -- a degree comparable to the surface of the sun. The duo expects that to be the next frontier in their research on the inner core.