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The centre of the Earth casts light on volcanic eruptions

Published Jun 09, 2010

Researchers at KTH have succeeded in verifying previous research on the globe's innermost core as regards its appearance and structure. This has consequences on our knowledge of how the entire Earth is built up, and in the long term will be able to provide a better understanding of earthquakes for example.

"When our research results were released for the first time, it was received with much surprise and was met by just as much mistrust. But now our latest results have proven to be so valuable that we have succeeded in including an article about it in PNAS, one of the most important research journals in the world," says Börje Johansson, professor of Applied Materials Physics at KTH.

The research which Börje Johansson is involved in together with Wei Luo and Rajeev Ahuja on materials science at KTH and researchers from the Ångström Laboratory at Uppsala University describes the Earth's innermost core. In quite simple terms, the KTH group of researchers previously found that the Earth's core is an iron ball which consists of crystalline structures of the BCC type and not the HCP type as most researchers believed. The HCP structure is such that the atoms lie tightly packed together while the atoms in the BCC structure are more widely dispersed. In the now current article, the new results are put forth which further strengthen the theory that the Earth's innermost core consists of iron atoms arranged in a BCC structure.

"These are extremely interesting results for geologists to work on," says Börje Johansson.

Anatoly Belonoshko, university lecturer in condensed matter theory at KTH, agrees.

"The research results provide us with a better picture of the Earth's core, and it also provides new opportunities for a greater understanding of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The research results also show that if the temperature of the Earth's core drops, then the Earth's magnetic field will also abate," says Anatoly Belonoshko.

The Earth's magnetic field protects us from radiation from the sun, but this is not an emergency situation at all, according to Anatoly Belonoshko.

"On the other hand, the research results are a paradigm shift in the research about the Earth. BCC structures have entirely different characteristics compared to HCP structures, says Anatoly Belonoshko.

The research has required access to extremely powerful computer resources at the computer centres NSC and Uppmax.

For more information, contact Börje Johansson at 08 - 790 88 23 or

This is where you will find the article in PNAS

Peter Larsson

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Jun 09, 2010