Scientists have long speculated exactly what may reside at the center of the Earth’s core and now researchers at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility plan to find out through the use of a super X-ray beam.
The ESRF has been recently configured to use a huge particle accelerator that can create various intense X-Ray beams which provide scientists with an atom-level look at subjects. Called the ID24 the machine will allow scientists to subject metals to extremely high pressures and temperatures that are normally only observed in Earth’s core, they will then observe what happens to those objects to better understand our planets core.
In an official ESRF news release the process is explained:
The ID24 beamline works like an active probe rather than a passive detector, firing an intense beam of X-rays at a sample. It uses a technique called X-ray absorption spectroscopy where the way how atoms of a given chemical element absorb X-rays is studied in fine detail. From this data not only the abundance of an element can be deducted but also its chemical states and which other atoms, or elements, are in their immediate neighborhood, and how distant they are. In short, a complete picture at the atomic scale of the sample studied is obtained.
According to Popular Science ID24 won’t begin experimentation until Spring 2012 but when it finally goes into production researchers hope to receive 1 million measurements per second which in turn will show them precisely what happens when elements such as Iron are heated to 10,000 degrees.
By examining how metals examine at extreme depths scientists also hope to better understand the Earth’s magnetic field.
Here’s a video explaining how the process works: