Melting relationships in the system Fe-Feo at high pressures: Implications for the composition and formation of the earth's core

Takumi Kato, A. E. Ringwood

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A reconnaissance investigation has been carried out on melting relationships in the system Fe-FeO at pressures up to 25 GPa and temperatures up to 2200° C using an MA-8 apparatus. Limited studies were also made of the Co-CoO and Ni-NiO systems. In the system FeFeO, the rapid exsolution of FeO from liquids during quenching causes some difficulties in interpretation of textures and phase relationships. The Co-CoO and Ni-NiO systems are more tractable experimentally and provide useful analogues to the Fe-FeO system. It was found that the broad field of liquid immiscibility present at ambient pressure in the Co-CoO system had disappeared at 18 GPa, 2200° C and that the system displayed complete miscibility between molten Co and CoO, analogous to the behaviour of the Ni-NiO system at ambient pressure. The phase diagram of the system Fe-FeO at 16 GPa and from 1600-2200° C was constructed from interpretations based on the textures of quenched run products. The solubility of FeO in molten iron is considerably enhanced by high pressures. At 16 GPa, the Fe-FeO eutectic contains about 10-15 mol percent FeO and the eutectic temperature in this iron-rich region of the system occurs at 1700±25° C, some 350° C below the melting point of pure iron at the same pressure. The solubility of FeO in molten Fe increases rapidly as temperature increases from 1700 to 2200° C. A relatively small liquid immiscibility field is present above 1900° C but is believed to be eliminated above 2200° C. This inference is supported by thermodynamic calculations on the positions of key phase boundaries. A single run carried out on an Fe50 FeO50 composition at 25 GPa and 2200° C demonstrated extensive and probably complete miscibility between Fe and FeO liquids under these conditions. The melting point of iron is decreased considerably by solution of FeO at high pressures; moreover, the melting point gradient (dP/dT) of the Fe-FeO eutectic is much smaller than that of pure iron and is also smaller than that of mantle pyrolite under the P, T conditions studied. These characteristics make it possible for melting of metal phase and segregation of the core to proceed within the Earth under conditions where most of the mantle remains below solidus temperatures. Under these conditions, the core would inevitably contain a large proportion of dissolved FeO. It is concluded therefore, that oxygen is likely to be the principal light element in the core. The inner core may not be composed of pure iron, as often proposed. Instead, it may consist of a crystalline oxide solid solution (Ni, Fe)2O.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-538
Number of pages15
JournalPhysics and Chemistry of Minerals
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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