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Exotic Substances Discovered Within Super-Earths

First Posted: Dec 27, 2015 03:31 PM EST
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What sort of substances do super-Earth's contain? Scientists have used mathematical models in order to "look" into the interior of super-Earths and have found that they may contain compounds that are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry.

In this latest study, the researchers attempted to find out which compounds may be formed by silicon, oxygen and magnesium at high pressures.

"Earth-like planets consist of a thin silicate crust, a silicate-oxide mantle-which makes up approximately 7/8 of the Earth's volume and consists more than 90 percent of silicates and magnesium oxide-and an iron core," said Artem Oganov, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We can say that magnesium, oxygen, and silicon form the basis of chemistry on Earth and on Earth-like planets."

In this study, the researchers used the USPEX algorithm to investigate various structural compositions of Mg-Si-O that may occur at pressures ranging from 5 to 30 million atmospheres. Such pressures may exist in the interior of super-Earths, which are planets with a solid surface mass several times greater than the mass of the Earth. While there are no planets like this in our solar system, there are planets orbiting other stars that are not as heavy as the gas giants, but are considerably heavier than the Earth.

The results of the computer modeling showed that the interior of these planets may contain the "exotic" compounds MgSi3O12 and MgSiO6. They have many more oxygen atoms than the MgSiO3 on Earth.

The findings don't just tell researchers that these compounds are present. They also tell scientists a bit more about the plate tectonics that may occur on these planets.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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