Properties of liquid Fe alloys under high-pressure conditions are crucial for understanding the composition, thermal state, and dynamics of Earth's core. Experiments on such liquids, however, are often performed under pressures far below those of the outer core, necessitating long extrapolations of experimental results to core conditions. Such estimates can be complicated by light elements possibly forming pressure-dependent molecular clusters that can significantly affect the physical properties of liquids as core conditions are approached. First-principles molecular dynamics simulations were employed to compute the properties of an Fe-Ni-C liquid with a composition of Fe3.7Ni0.37C at 1673 K and pressures from 0 to 67 GPa to benchmark computational methods on pressure effects on the structure and properties of the liquid relative to low pressure experimental results. The short-range structure is manifested by the coordination number (CN) of Fe/Ni-Fe/Ni being around 12, indicative of a nearly close-packed structure in the pressure range, and the CN of C-Fe/Ni gradual increasing from 6.5 to 8.5, indicative of an approximately octahedral to cubic transition as pressure increases. The Fe/Ni-Fe/Ni bond distance, however, is found to be 10 times more compressible than the C-Fe/Ni distance. The intermediate-range structure of Fe/Ni-Fe/Ni and C-Fe/Ni subsystems, described by a partial configurationally decomposed distribution function, undergoes substantial changes, characterized by a significant increase of the number of polyhedra that share 3 atoms with each other. Such dense configurations are related to an increased bulk modulus, decreased diffusion coefficient, decreased activation volume for diffusion, and increased shear viscosity. Reproducing the experimental observations at low pressures provides important support for modeling the liquid under the conditions relevant to the outer core.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
FRONTIERS IN EARTH SCIENCE
Wang, J. (2019). Short- and Intermediate-Range Structure and Dynamics of Fe-Ni-C Liquid Under Compression. FRONTIERS IN EARTH SCIENCE, 7 https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2019.00258