Thermal conductivity of lower-mantle minerals

Alexander F. Goncharov*, Pierre Beck, Viktor V. Struzhkin, Benjamin D. Haugen, Steven D. Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Geodynamic models of heat transport and the thermal evolution of Earth's interior require knowledge of thermal conductivity for high-pressure phases at relevant temperatures and pressures. Here we present new data on radiative and lattice heat transfer in mantle materials determined from optical spectroscopy and time-resolved optical radiometry. The pressure dependence of optical absorption in ferropericlase (Mg,Fe)O, and silicate perovskite (Mg,Fe)SiO3, has been determined in the IR through UV regions up to 133 GPa. Whereas (Mg,Fe)O exhibits a strong pressure dependence of absorption and spectral changes associated with the high-spin (HS) to low-spin (LS) transition of Fe2+ [Goncharov, A.F., Struzhkin, V.V., Jacobsen, S.D. 2006. Reduced radiative conductivity of low-spin (Mg,Fe)O in the lower mantle. Science 312, 1205-1208], the pressure dependence of optical absorption in (Mg,Fe)SiO3 is relatively weak. We observe a moderate increase in absorption with pressure for (Mg,Fe)SiO3 in the visible and infrared spectral range due to a red-shift of absorption in ultraviolet, however the crystal-field transitions of Fe2+ become weaker with pressure and disappear above 50 GPa as a result of the HS-LS transition in (Mg,Fe)SiO3. Intervalence charge-transfer transitions in silicate perovskite shift to higher energies with pressure. The temperature dependence of the optical absorption of (Mg,Fe)O measured up to 65 GPa and 800 K is moderate below 30 GPa and weak above 30 GPa. Thus, the temperature correction of the radiative conductivity is insignificant. The estimated total pressure-dependent radiative conductivity (in approximation of a large grain size) is lower than expected from the pressure extrapolation of the ambient and low-pressure data [Hofmeister, A.M., 1999. Mantle values of thermal conductivity and the geotherm from phonon lifetimes. Science 283, 1699-1706; Hofmeister, A.M., 2005. Dependence of diffusive radiative transfer on grain-size, temperature, and Fe-content: implications for mantle processes. J. Geodyn. 40, 51-72]. A new method has been developed to measure thermal diffusivity of mantle materials at high P-T using time-resolved radiometry combined with a pulsed-IR source. Here, the technique is tested on MgO to 32 GPa and used to obtain a functional pressure dependence of thermal diffusivity and calculated thermal conductivity of the lower mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Diamond anvil cell
  • Earth's mantle dynamics
  • Electronic spin transition
  • High pressure
  • Iron containing minerals
  • Lower mantle
  • Optical properties
  • Thermal conductivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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