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Understanding Earth’s Interior

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Photo courtesy of Hong Yang

Always fascinated with the natural systems that characterize Earth’s surface, Hong Yang, PhD ’23 (geological sciences) now studies Earth’s core.

Without the core, Yang explains, “Earth would be subject to incredibly harmful cosmic rays. The core is fundamental in producing Earth’s magnetosphere, the magnetic bubble that cushions us from the Sun’s harmful rays." Yang says learning more about deep Earth tells us about all of our planet. “Deep Earth influences almost everything happening on the surface. When we study the inside, we begin to learn more about the sometimes-catastrophic influence the core has on the surface."

Yang, the “Si” Muller Memorial Fellow, uses diamond anvil cells and other tools in his lab to create pressures that resemble what iron alloys would experience in the Earth’s interior. He describes his research as helping to make inferences about the physical and chemical properties of these materials. “The conditions are very different compared to what we experience above ground,” he says, “so these experiments really are the closest we can get to understanding what the Earth’s interior is like and how the high pressure affects materials.”