2022 Volume 131 Issue 2 Pages 179-192
Various phase transitions occur in the Earth's interior. They cause discontinuities in seismic velocity and density profiles. The 410 km and 660 km discontinuities are explained by the olivine–wadsleyite transformation and the decomposition of ringwoodite into ferropericlase and bridgmanite, respectively. The major transitions in the lower mantle are the spin transition in mantle minerals containing ferric and ferrous irons, the post-perovskite transition of bridgmanite, i.e., the transformation of bridgmanite into a post-perovskite phase with a CaIrO3 structure. The former transition may occur at the shallow lower mantle, whereas the latter transition occurs at the bottom of the lower mantle, which may correspond to the D″ layer at the core–mantle boundary. There are several important seismic velocity anomalies. These include low-velocity anomalies associated with hot rising mantle plumes and oceanic ridge areas, and high-velocity anomalies associated with cold slab subduction. Ocean water is returned into the mantle by hydrous minerals stored in the slabs. Some hydrous minerals such as the solid solution of hydrous phase δ and phase H, AlOOH-MgSiO4H2 are stable along the normal geotherm to the core–mantle boundary, and bring water into the base of the lower mantle. Another interesting region is located at the base of the lower mantle. These anomalies are called the Large Low Shear Velocity Provinces (LLSVP) and the Ultra-Low Velocity Zones (ULVZ). An LLSVP is considered to be a region with iron enrichment. This region may be caused by accumulations of the high-pressure hydrous phases. A ULVZ with very low compressional and shear velocities and high densities is observed at the core–mantle boundary. This region may contain dense iron rich melts. The Earth's core is composed of a molten outer core and a solid inner core. It consists mainly of iron–nickel alloy with small amounts of light elements, such as Si, O, S, C and H. The inner core is considered to be composed of an hcp phase. However, some enigmatic properties of the inner core, such as low shear velocity and anisotropy, may not be explained only by this phase. Some experimental and theoretical studies suggest the existence of a bcc phase at a high temperature region approaching the melting temperature. Therefore, the inner core may be composed of a bcc phase or a mixture of hcp and bcc (or B2 phase which is an ordered form of the bcc structure). Further studies are necessary to achieve a better understanding of the Earth's core.