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Lattice thermal conductivity of MgO at conditions of Earth's interior


Tang, Xiaoli
Dong, Jianjun


Thermal conductivity of the Earth’s lower mantle greatly impacts the mantle convection style and affects the heat conduction from the core to the mantle. Direct laboratory measurement of thermal conductivity of mantle minerals remains a technical challenge at the pressure-temperature (P-T) conditions relevant to the lower mantle, and previously estimated values are extrapolated from low P-T data based on simple empirical thermal transport models. By using a numerical technique that combines first-principles electronic structure theory and Peierls–Boltzmann transport theory, we predict the lattice thermal conductivity of MgO, previously used to estimate the thermal conductivity in the Earth, at conditions from ambient to the core-mantle boundary (CMB). We show that our first-principles technique provides a realistic model for the P-T dependence of lattice thermal conductivity of MgO at conditions from ambient to the CMB, and we propose thermal conductivity profiles of MgO in the lower mantle based on geotherm models. The calculated conductivity increases from 15 –20 W/K-m at the 670 km seismic discontinuity to 40 –50 W/K-m at the CMB. This large depth variation in calculated thermal conductivity should be included in models of mantle convection, which has been traditionally studied based on the assumption of constant conductivity.