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New Study Uncovers Origin of Earth’s E-Prime Layer: Water Seepage from Surface


The earth as the place where we stand, continues to hold mysteries to the deepest depths. This is because the Earth is composed of several different layers.

Various research explorations have attempted to uncover the materials that make up each layer. Several decades ago, geologists discovered a thin layer surrounding the Earth’s outer core.

This layer is known as the E prime layer or E-Prime. The E-Prime layer is 100 kilometers thick, which is relatively thin compared to the rest of the Earth’s interior, and is about 2,900 kilometers below the Earth’s surface.

Water Seeps into the Earth’s Core

Scientists previously theorized that the E-Prime layer came from ancient magma rich in iron.

However, another theory states that this layer is a leak from the Earth’s inner core which came out due to the collision of the Earth with the protoplanet which gave birth to the moon.

However, none of these ideas could be widely accepted. Finally, research spearheaded by experts from Arizona State University attempted to uncover the origins of this layer.

Through research published in journals Nature Geoscienceon November 13, 2023, researchers discovered that the layer was most likely formed by water seeping from the surface.

Water in the upper layers leaks through sinking tectonic plates. The flow then enters the mantle which contains active magma and reacts with the metallic surface of the Earth’s outer core.

“We suggest that, if water is channeled to the core-mantle boundary via subduction, this reaction could enable the exchange of hydrogen and silicon between the mantle and core.” wrote the researcher.

If this reaction is true, it can be seen that the E-Prime layer also produces a large number of silica crystals.

Chemical Reaction between Hydrogen and Silica Billions of Years Ago

In the study, the researchers carried out a series of laboratory experiments to simulate the reaction process of water with the Earth’s outer core under great pressure.

Quoted from Live Sciencethey found that hydrogen from water replaced the silica in the molten metal, forcing the silica out of the metal in crystal form.

This layer is the outer core layer which has a lower density, stabilizes chemical stratification in the upper part of the Earth’s core, and lower speed. This then causes the composition of the layers to contain a lot of hydrogen and contain little silica.

The researchers believe that this process took more than 1 billion years to reach the current thickness of the E layer.

This finding also suggests that the layer may be older than the inner core, which solidified about 1 billion years ago.

Leaking Water That Forms Crystal ‘Factories’

Apart from that, these findings are also a sign of the incomplete development of our knowledge regarding the interaction of the Earth’s outer core and the Earth’s mantle layer.

In September 2022, the same research team discovered that water leaks may react with large carbon reserves in the outer core.

This reaction is thought to be capable of creating a giant diamond ‘factory’ because a layer rich in crystals forms near the boundary of the Earth’s core and mantle.

“This discovery coincides with our previous observations of diamonds forming from water reacting with carbon in liquid iron under extreme pressure,” said Dan Shim, a geoscientist at Arizona State University, quoted from the official Arizona State University website.

“(This discovery) shows that the interaction of the core (with) the mantle is much more dynamic, and suggests substantial material exchange,” concluded Shim.

Watch the video “Study: The Earth’s Core May Start Rotating in the Opposite Direction”


2023-12-20 03:00:00
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