IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


5th October, 2023 Geography

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.


  • Earth's inner core is characterized by extreme pressures and temperatures.
  • A study led by The University of Texas at Austin and Chinese collaborators reveals surprising atomic mobility within the inner core.
  • Collective motion of iron atoms challenges previous assumptions about its rigidity.


Laboratory Experiments and AI Modeling

  • Scientists recreated inner core conditions in a lab by subjecting a small iron plate to a high-speed projectile.
  • Data on temperature, pressure, and velocity collected during experiments.
  • Machine-learning computer model used to simulate behavior of iron atoms in the inner core.
  • Previous models depicted inner core with fewer than a hundred atoms; AI expanded the scale to approximately 30,000 atoms.
  • Observation of atom groups moving within the supercell challenges the notion of rigidity.

Implications for Seismic Data and Geodynamo

  • Seismic data has long puzzled scientists with its indication of inner core softness.
  • Atomic mobility within the inner core could explain the apparent softness.
  • Increased atom movement deep within Earth makes the inner core less rigid and more susceptible to shear forces.

The Geodynamo and Earth's Magnetic Field

  • Earth's geodynamo is the process responsible for generating the planet's magnetic field.
  • Geodynamo essential for shielding Earth from harmful solar radiation and cosmic particles.
  • Inner core plays a crucial role in the geodynamo, contributing about half of its energy.
  • Understanding atomic-scale inner core activity aids in comprehending the geodynamo's operation.

Significance for Geodynamo and Magnetic Field

  • Insights into atomic mobility within the inner core offer a more comprehensive understanding of the geodynamo.
  • How energy and heat are generated within the inner core.
  • The interaction between the inner core and the outer core, a key component of the geodynamo.
  • The generation of Earth's magnetic field, a vital factor for maintaining a habitable planet.

Layers of the Earth

The Earth, our planet, is not just a solid sphere but a complex structure with distinct layers. These layers, from the outermost to the innermost, play a vital role in shaping our planet's geology, atmosphere, and even its magnetic field. Understanding the Earth's layers is fundamental to comprehending geological processes, tectonics, and our planet's evolution.

Crust: The Earth's Outer Skin

  • The Earth's outermost layer is the crust, which is the thinnest of all the layers.
  • Comprising solid rock, it includes both continental crust (beneath landmasses) and oceanic crust (underneath oceans).
  • The crust's composition varies, with continental crust rich in granite and oceanic crust mainly composed of basalt.
  • Human activities, such as mining and drilling, primarily occur within the crust.
  • Depth: The crust is the Earth's outermost layer, ranging from about 0 to 70 kilometers (0 to 43 miles) in depth beneath continents and only about 5 kilometers (3 miles) beneath the oceans.
  • Density: The crust is relatively less dense than the layers beneath it due to its composition of solid rock, with an average density around 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³).
  • Pressure: At the crust's deepest points, the pressure can reach up to several gigapascals (GPa), but it is significantly lower compared to the layers below.

Mantle: The Solid Silicate Layer

  • Beneath the crust lies the mantle, which constitutes the majority of the Earth's volume.
  • The mantle consists of solid silicate rocks, but at greater depths, it exhibits semi-solid behavior due to high pressure and temperature.
  • The mantle's convective currents drive plate tectonics, causing continents to move and shaping the Earth's surface.
  • Depth: Extending from the crust's base to approximately 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) below the Earth's surface.
  • Density: The mantle is composed of solid silicate rocks and has an average density of around 3.3 g/cm³.
  • Pressure: Pressure in the mantle increases with depth, reaching tens of GPa in the lower mantle. This pressure contributes to the semi-solid behavior of rocks in the deeper regions.

Outer Core: The Liquid Iron-Nickel Layer

  • Deeper inside the Earth, we encounter the outer core, primarily composed of liquid iron and nickel.
  • The outer core's movement generates the Earth's magnetic field through the geodynamo process, which plays a crucial role in protecting our planet from solar radiation.
  • Depth: The outer core lies beneath the mantle and extends from around 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to about 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) below the Earth's surface.
  • Density: The outer core is denser than the mantle, primarily consisting of liquid iron and nickel, with an average density of approximately 10.7 g/cm³.
  • Pressure: The pressure within the outer core is immense, reaching hundreds of GPa due to the weight of the overlying layers. This pressure maintains the iron-nickel alloy in a liquid state.

Inner Core: The Solid Iron-Nickel Core

  • At the Earth's center lies the inner core, which is incredibly hot and subjected to immense pressure.
  • Despite the extreme conditions, the inner core remains solid due to the immense pressure suppressing its melting.
  • The inner core is primarily composed of iron and nickel, similar to the outer core.
  • Depth: The inner core is situated at the Earth's center, starting at approximately 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) and extending to the very core at about 6,371 kilometers (3,959 miles) beneath the Earth's surface.
  • Density: Despite the extreme conditions, the inner core remains solid due to immense pressure. It is composed mainly of solid iron and nickel, with a density estimated at around 12.8 g/cm³.
  • Pressure: The inner core experiences extraordinarily high pressures, reaching over 3.6 million GPa at its center, which prevents it from melting despite the extreme temperatures.

Interaction and Dynamics Between Layers

  • Plate Tectonics:
    • The movement of the Earth's lithospheric plates occurs primarily in the upper part of the mantle.
    • These plates "float" on the semi-viscous asthenosphere, a region in the upper mantle, and interact at plate boundaries, leading to phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
  • Convection Currents:
    • Heat from the Earth's interior creates convection currents within the mantle, driving the motion of tectonic plates.
    • These currents are responsible for the dynamic nature of the Earth's surface, including the formation of mountains and ocean basins.
  • Magnetic Field Generation:
    • The liquid outer core's movement, driven by convection currents and Earth's rotation, generates the magnetic field that protects our planet from solar wind and cosmic rays.


  • Research marks significant progress in unveiling inner core mysteries.
  • Offers new insights into complex processes shaping Earth's deepest layers.
  • A step forward in understanding the dynamic and intricate mechanisms governing our planet's core and the geodynamo that powers Earth's protective magnetic field.


Q. Explain the concept of the geodynamo and its importance in generating Earth's magnetic field. Discuss the recent findings regarding the movement of iron atoms in the inner core and their implications for our understanding of the geodynamo process. (250 Words)