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Beyond Earthly Skies

A Nuclear Probe to Explore Earth’s Interior

31 Aug 2013, 22:00 UTC
A Nuclear Probe to Explore Earth’s Interior
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Our knowledge of the composition and structure of the Earth’s interior through direct observation and sampling is limited to the top few kilometres of the Earth’s crust. The deepest hole ever drilled into the Earth’s crust is the Kola Superdeep Borehole on the Kola Peninsula in Russia. It was part of a scientific drilling project that reached a maximum depth of 12,262 m in 1989. Drilling deep into the Earth is extremely challenging due to the increasing temperature and pressure. In fact, almost everything that is known about the Earth’s interior comes from the study of seismic waves propagating through the Earth.In a series of two papers - “Probing of the Interior Layers of the Earth with Self-Sinking Capsules” (2005) and “Exploring the Earth’s Crust and Mantle Using Self-Descending, Radiation-Heated, Probes and Acoustic Emission Monitoring” (2008), the authors propose a novel method of exploring the Earth’s interior down to a depth of more than 100 km. They show that a spherical probe in the form of a tungsten capsule filled with radioactive cobalt-60 can produce sufficient heat to melt its way into the Earth.The temperature required to melt rocks are in excess of 1000°C and the probe needs to withstand ...

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