The Fe-Si-C system at extreme P-T conditions: a possible core crystallization pathway for reduced planets

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (in Press) Link to Article []
1Sorbonne Université, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, UMR CNRS 7590, Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, IMPMC, 75005 Paris, France
2Earth and Planets Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, USA1
3Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, CNRS, IRD, UGE, ISTerre, Grenoble 38000, France1
4University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0399, USA
5Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), Hamburg, Germany
6European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France
Copyright Elsevier

Several characteristics of a planet, including its internal dynamics, hinge on the composition and crystallization regime of the core, which, in turn, depends on the phase relations, melting behaviour and thermodynamic properties of constituent materials. The Fe-Si-C ternary system can serve as a proxy for core composition and formation processes under reducing conditions. We conducted laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments coupled with in situ X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy analysis of the recovered samples, on four different starting compositions in the Fe-Si-C ternary system. Phase relations up to 200 GPa and up to 4000 K were determined. An FeSi phase with a B2 structure and iron carbides with different stoichiometries (i.e. Fe3C and Fe7C3) are the main observed phases, along with pure C (diamond) that has an extended stability field in the subsolidus regime. Carbon is largely soluble in B2-structured FeSi, whereas Si does not partition into the carbides. The melting curve determined for the starting material containing the least amount of light elements is consistent with the one for the Fe-C system. The other starting materials display higher melting temperatures than that of Fe-C, suggesting the existence of at least two different invariant points in the Fe-Si-C system. Applied to planetary interiors, our observations highlight how a small variation in light elements content would deeply affect the solidification style of a core. Bottom-up (Fe-enriched systems) and top-down regimes (C-rich systems), as well as solidification of a crystal mush (Si-enriched systems). These three crystallization regimes influence significantly the possibility of starting and sustaining a dynamo. Our results provide new insights into the differentiation of terrestrial planets in the Solar System and beyond, contributing to the study of planetary diversity.


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