New research by Brown University geochemists, including doctoral student Boda Liu, provides new insights on the scale at which Earth’s mantle varies in chemical composition. The findings could help scientists better understand the mixing process of mantle convection, the slow churning that drives the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates.
“We know that the mantle is heterogeneous in composition, but it’s been difficult to figure out how large or small those heterogeneities might be,” said Liu, a Ph.D. student in geology. “What we show here is that there must be heterogeneities of at least a kilometer in size to produce the chemical signature we observe in rocks derived from mantle materials.”
The research, which Liu co-authored with Yan Liang, a professor in Brown’s Department of Earth Environmental and Planetary Sciences, is published in Science Advances.