Carbon in Earth's Deepest Interior and Our Habitable Planet
Bin Chen
Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology



Geoscientists have long recognized the importance of generating extreme pressures and temperatures to reproduce in laboratory settings the conditions present in planetary interiors. Such experiments provide the basis for understanding the nature and mechanisms of dynamic processes taking place within deep interiors of planets and moons. Since early 1960s, mineral physics has rapidly emerged as an important interdisciplinary field in Earth and planetary sciences, providing an essential link between laboratory measurements of the physical and chemical properties of minerals and rocks under extreme conditions and geophysical and geochemical observations of planetary interiors. Advanced high-pressure and synchrotron X-ray techniques have permitted experimental mineral physicists to probe the micro-scale properties of planetary materials that govern macro-scale behaviors of the complex planetary systems. Carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the Solar System and backbone of life, is depleted by three orders of magnitude in the silicate Earth but mostly resides in Earth’s metallic core. It is among the principal light elements that are considered to alloy with iron, necessary to explain seismic observations of the core. In this talk, a brief introduction of mineral physics research will be followed by our mineral physics studies on iron carbides and Fe-Ni-C liquids at extreme conditions, with a focus on carbon in the core, pathways of carbon from star birth to planet formation, and the thermochemical evolution of our habitable planet.