Altered chemistry of oxygen and iron under deep Earth conditions.


Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced Research, Beijing, 100094, China. [Email]


A drastically altered chemistry was recently discovered in the Fe-O-H system under deep Earth conditions, involving the formation of iron superoxide (FeO2Hx with x = 0 to 1), but the puzzling crystal chemistry of this system at high pressures is largely unknown. Here we present evidence that despite the high O/Fe ratio in FeO2Hx, iron remains in the ferrous, spin-paired and non-magnetic state at 60-133 GPa, while the presence of hydrogen has minimal effects on the valence of iron. The reduced iron is accompanied by oxidized oxygen due to oxygen-oxygen interactions. The valence of oxygen is not -2 as in all other major mantle minerals, instead it varies around -1. This result indicates that like iron, oxygen may have multiple valence states in our planet's interior. Our study suggests a possible change in the chemical paradigm of how oxygen, iron, and hydrogen behave under deep Earth conditions.