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Nature. 2004 Jul 22;430(6998):445-8.

Theoretical and experimental evidence for a post-perovskite phase of MgSiO3 in Earth's D" layer.

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Laboratory of Crystallography, Department of Materials, ETH Zurich, Wolfgang Pauli Strasse 10, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


The Earth's lower mantle is believed to be composed mainly of (Mg,Fe)SiO3 perovskite, with lesser amounts of (Mg,Fe)O and CaSiO3 (ref. 1). But it has not been possible to explain many unusual properties of the lowermost approximately 150 km of the mantle (the D" layer) with this mineralogy. Here, using ab initio simulations and high-pressure experiments, we show that at pressures and temperatures of the D" layer, MgSiO3 transforms from perovskite into a layered CaIrO3-type post-perovskite phase. The elastic properties of the post-perovskite phase and its stability field explain several observed puzzling properties of the D" layer: its seismic anisotropy, the strongly undulating shear-wave discontinuity at its top and possibly the anticorrelation between shear and bulk sound velocities.

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