Designing and developing novel instrumentation is a foundational part of the Deep Carbon Observatory’s mission. For many of the questions DCO scientists are asking, conventional technologies are insufficient, and require either custom modifications or complete redesign. This year, the DCO funded a small team of researchers to begin work on just such an instrument, to explore arguably the most fundamental question of the Observatory: How much carbon is in Earth?
Tremendous uncertainty remains over how much carbon is contained within Earth’s crust, mantle, and core, and how carbon is distributed between these deep Earth layers. Estimates currently range from around 1000ppm to 3.5% by weight. These estimates are based upon differential sampling of magmatic rock and chondritic meteorites respectively, and point to a major discrepancy between how much carbon we have found on Earth and how much there should be, perhaps contained somewhere deep within the planet.
One possibility to resolve this discrepancy is that as Earth formed from the accretion of cosmic debris, volatiles such as carbon were lost. By studying meteorites (which have remained largely unaltered since Earth formed) and how they behave under high pressures and temperatures, DCO scientists hope to answer the question of just how much carbon was lost, and therefore refine our estimates of how much remains.
James Badro (IPGP, Paris, France), Philippe Gillet (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland), Frederick Ryerson (LLNL, California, USA), and Alexander Goncharov (Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC, USA) have begun work on a novel instrument that combines cutting edge laser-levitation apparatus with a laser-heated diamond anvil cell. So far, the team has conducted preliminary tests on 3D laser micromachining of samples for use in the laser-heated diamond anvil cell, and has performed tests on silicates, carbonates, and metals (olivine, magnesite, iron). The preliminary results are shown below.
For further information on this instrument, please contact James Badro.