Earth needs fuel to run its engine. Reseachers are hoping to determine nuclear fuel and radioactive power left inside the Earth's tank by 2025.
From volcanic activity to maintaining magnetic field to sliding tectonic plates, earth requires a force to keep things in balance. Like a hybrid car, earth gets its fuel from two sources, primordial energy and intense heat produced in radioactivity decay, a natural activity existing in Earth’s core. But is the planet running out of its fuel?
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To estimate the fuel left inside the earth, researchers have developed numerous models and simulations but their predictions sound no much better than guesses. Now a team of researchers from United States, Czech Republic and China boldly claims that they will be able to determine by 2025 how much nuclear fuel and radioactive power remain in the Earth's tank.
“I am one of those scientists who has created a compositional model of the Earth and predicted the amount of fuel inside Earth today," said William McDonough, one of the authors of the study from University of Maryland. "We're in a field of guesses. At this point in my career, I don't care if I'm right or wrong, I just want to know the answer."
Researchers will calculate actual amount of fuel inside the Earth using geoneutrinos. Geoneutrinos are particles produced by radioactive decay within the Earth. They also result from nuclear reactions within stars, supernovae, black holes and nuclear reactors used at power plants. But the hardest part of the project is extracting the antineutrons from the depths of the Earth. It requires a huge detector to dig a mile beneath the ground to locate geoneutrinos and they can reveal both the amount of uranium and thorium inside the Earth and heat in the Earth’s interior. But so far the data about antineutrons is very limited, which is unable to yield accurate results.
Researchers are hoping that the data will expand by 2022 with the inclusion of three more detectors - SNO+ detector in Canada and the Jinping and JUNO detectors in China and they will help improve their understanding of fuels left inside the earth.
“Once we collect three years of antineutrino data from all five detectors, we are confident that we will have developed an accurate fuel gauge for the Earth and be able to calculate the amount of remaining fuel inside Earth,” said McDonough.
“Knowing exactly how much radioactive power there is in the Earth will tell us about Earth's consumption rate in the past and its future fuel budget. By showing how fast the planet has cooled down since its birth, we can estimate how long this fuel will last.”
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The study was published in journal Scientific Reports.