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Publication Detail
Mantle Dynamics in Super-Earths: Post-Perovskite Rheology and Self-Regulation of Viscosity
Simple scalings suggest that super-Earths are more likely than an equivalent Earth-sized planet to be undergoing plate tectonics. Generally, viscosity and thermal conductivity increase with pressure while thermal expansivity decreases, resulting in lower convective vigor in the deep mantle. According to conventional thinking, this might result in no convection in a super-Earth's deep mantle. Here we evaluate this. First, we here extend the density functional theory (DFT) calculations of post-perovskite activation enthalpy of to a pressure of 1 TPa. The activation volume for diffusion creep becomes very low at very high pressure, but nevertheless for the largest super-Earths the viscosity along an adiabat may approach 1030 Pa s in the deep mantle. Second, we use these calculated values in numerical simulations of mantle convection and lithosphere dynamics of planets with up to ten Earth masses. The models assume a compressible mantle including depth-dependence of material properties and plastic yielding induced plate tectonics. Results confirm the likelihood of plate tectonics and show a novel self-regulation of deep mantle temperature. The deep mantle is not adiabatic; instead internal heating raises the temperature until the viscosity is low enough to facilitate convective loss of the radiogenic heat, which results in a super-adiabatic temperature profile and a viscosity increase with depth of no more than ~3 orders of magnitude, regardless of the viscosity increase that is calculated for an adiabat. Convection in large super-Earths is characterised by large upwellings and small, time-dependent downwellings. If a super-Earth was extremely hot/molten after its formation, it is thus likely that even after billions of years its deep interior is still extremely hot and possibly substantially molten with a "super basal magma ocean" - a larger version of (Labrosse et al., 2007).
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