Influence of sulfur on the electrical resistivity of a crystallizing core in small terrestrial bodies

1Anne Pommier
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 496, 37-46. Link to Article []
1UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, La Jolla, CA, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Electrical experiments were performed on core analogues in the Fe–S system and on FeSi2 up to 8 GPa and 1850 °C in the multi-anvil apparatus. Electrical resistivity was measured using the four-electrode method. For all samples, resistivity increases with increasing temperature. The higher the S content, the higher the resistivity and the resistivity increase upon melting. At 4.5 GPa, liquid FeS is up to >10 times more resistive than Fe-5 wt.% S and twice more resistive than FeSi2, suggesting a stronger influence of S than Si on liquid resistivity. Electrical results are used to develop crystallization-resistivity paths considering both equilibrium and fractional crystallization in the Fe–S system. At 4.5 GPa, equilibrium crystallization, as expected locally in thin snow zones during top-down core crystallization, presents electrical resistivity variations from about 300 to 190 microhm-cm for a core analogue made of Fe-5 wt.%S, depending on temperature. Fractional crystallization, which is relevant to core-scale cooling, leads to more important electrical resistivity variations, depending on S distribution across the core, temperature, and pressure. Estimates of the lower bound of thermal resistivity are calculated using the Wiedemann–Franz law. Comparison with previous works indicates that the thermal conductivity of a metallic core in small terrestrial bodies is more sensitive to the abundance of alloying agents than that of the Earth’s core. Application to Ganymede using core adiabat estimates from previous studies suggests important thermal resistivity variations with depth during cooling, with a lower bound value at the top of the core that can be as low as 3 W/m K. It is speculated that the generation and sustainability of a magnetic field in small terrestrial bodies might be favored in light element-depleted cores.


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