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Stability of magnesite and its high-pressure form in the lowermost mantle


Carbonates are important constituents of marine sediments and play a fundamental role in the recycling of carbon into the Earth's deep interior via subduction of oceanic crust and sediments1,2,3. Study of the stability of carbonates under high pressure and temperature is thus important for modelling the carbon budget in the entire Earth system. Such studies, however, have rarely been performed under appropriate lower-mantle conditions and no experimental data exist at pressures greater than 80 GPa (refs 3–6). Here we report an in situ X-ray diffraction study of the stability of magnesite (MgCO3), which is the major component of subducted carbonates, at pressure and temperature conditions approaching those of the core–mantle boundary. We found that magnesite transforms to an unknown form at pressures above 115 GPa and temperatures of 2,100–2,200 K (depths of 2,600 km) without any dissociation, suggesting that magnesite and its high-pressure form may be the major hosts for carbon throughout most parts of the Earth's lower mantle.

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We thank A. Kurio, M. Murakami, Y. Kuwayama and N. Sata for discussions and technical assistance. We also thank T. Katsura for providing the magnesite starting material. M.I. thanks T. Yagi for advice on DAC techniques. The in situ X-ray observations were conducted at BL10XU, SPring-8.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Maiko Isshiki or Tetsuo Irifune.

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Figure 1: X-ray diffraction profiles with increasing pressure at the maximum temperatures in selected runs (ad).
Figure 2: Possible phase relations of MgCO3 in the deep mantle.


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