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Iron is a metal element with a melting point of 1538 degrees Celsius and boiling point of 2861 degrees Celsius. Iron is the most abundant metal in Earth, forming much of its outer and inner cores. It has an atomic number of 26 and belongs to the first transition metals group in the periodic table. It is also the most common element in the human body, primarily in hemoglobin which carries oxygen in blood vessels.

Iron has both 3d and 4s electrons and therefore has both metallic and covalent bonding. This causes it to have a higher melting temperature than most other elements as there are many more electrostatic forces between its atoms. When this energy gets high enough it triggers the atoms to separate and dissolve.

Until now it has been very difficult to measure the melting point of iron at pressures close to those found in the Earth’s core, even with techniques like static laser heated diamond anvil cells. A few studies have been carried out using shock compression, but results have been inconsistent. One study (Boehler) suggested a melting curve that is below 5,000 Kelvin at the conditions of the inner core, but recent X-ray diffraction work suggests a steeper melt line.

Using LLNL’s two-stage gas gun, which can produce a pressure of over 400 Gigapascals (GPa), the scientists have successfully measured the melting point of iron at high temperatures and very large pressures. The team’s new results show that the melt line is located at a pressure between those of the mantle and the inner-outer core boundary.

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