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The Earth’s mantle in a microwave oven: thermal convection driven by a heterogeneous distribution of heat sources

Abstract : Convective motions in silicate planets are largely driven by internal heat sources and secular cooling. The exact amount and distribution of heat sources in the Earth are poorly constrained and the latter is likely to change with time due to mixing and to the deformation of boundaries that separate different reservoirs. To improve our understanding of planetary-scale convection in these conditions, we have designed a new laboratory setup allowing a large range of heat source distributions. We illustrate the potential of our new technique with a study of an initially stratified fluid involving two layers with different physical properties and internal heat production rates. A modified microwave oven is used to generate a uniform radiation propagating through the fluids. Experimental fluids are solutions of hydroxyethyl cellulose and salt in water, such that salt increases both the density and the volumetric heating rate. We determine temperature and composition fields in 3D with non-invasive techniques. Two fluorescent dyes are used to determine temperature. A Nd:YAG planar laser beam excites fluorescence, and an optical system, involving a beam splitter and a set of colour filters, captures the fluorescence intensity distribution on two separate spectral bands. The ratio between the two intensities provides an instantaneous determination of temperature with an uncertainty of 5% (typically 1K). We quantify mixing processes by precisely tracking the interfaces separating the two fluids. These novel techniques allow new insights on the generation, morphology and evolution of large-scale heterogeneities in the Earth's lower mantle.
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Contributor : Eva Fareau <>
Submitted on : Thursday, August 27, 2020 - 11:13:46 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 19, 2021 - 3:16:27 AM



Loïc Fourel, Angela Limare, Claude Jaupart, Emanoil Surducan, Cinzia Farnetani, et al.. The Earth’s mantle in a microwave oven: thermal convection driven by a heterogeneous distribution of heat sources. Experiments in Fluids, Springer Verlag (Germany), 2017, 58 (8), ⟨10.1007/s00348-017-2381-3⟩. ⟨insu-02923538⟩



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