Japanese Scientists Plan To Drill Into Earth's Mantle For The First Time

Posted: Apr 12 2017, 1:12am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Japanese Scientists Plan to Drill into Earth's Mantle for the First Time
Credit: Yuri_Arcurs

Scientists in Japan have unveiled their ambitious plan to drill through the ocean floor and into the Earth's mantle.

Japanese scientists have announced their intent to drill through the Earth’s crust and reach the mantle, a feat never before accomplished.

Nobody has ever taken the journey to the Earth’s mantle because of the very extreme conditions beneath the Earth's crust. It has been thought that the Earth's mantle is far too deep to dig a hole and send a probe down. Temperature increases the deeper we go and could reach as high as 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. Another problem is atmospheric pressure that becomes very intense farther down the mantle.

Researchers have attempted to drill into the Earth's mantle before but they met with little success. Those efforts failed due to various reasons, ranging from inappropriate selection of drilling sites to lack of technology and expertise.

Researchers at Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) suggest they would require drilling down from a position in the ocean, because the crust is much thinner there. It would still be mammoth undertaking.

Drilling into the Earth’s mantle and retrieving samples will help researchers to understand the true make up of the planet as well as its history. Researchers are hoping to discover how our planet was formed and what the mantle is composed of.

Understanding the materials that make up the Earth’s mantle today offers a way to learn more about what the interior parts of the planet may have been like billions of years ago.

“We don't know the exact (composition) of the mantle yet. We have only seen some mantle materials -- the rock is very beautiful, it's kind of a yellowish green.” Researcher Natsue Abe from JAMSTEC told CNN.

Earth’s mantle makes up more than 80 percent of entire Earth’s mass. Though no planet is better studied than our Earth, the mantle is probably one of the last frontiers for scientific inquiry.

Japanese researchers are especially interested in the research because the country is often struck by massive earthquakes. Learning about Earth’s mantle will lead to more accurate predictions about earthquakes and will help them better prepare for the consequences.

“In Japan we have some volcanoes, earthquakes and such kind of natural hazards. People (want to create) some monitoring or analysis equipment but we don't know ... what kind of factor to use," said Abe.

"So we need to know the natural system more clearly or precisely ... we have to observe the earth more precisely."

Three drilling sites are currently under consideration: Hawaii, Costa Rica and Mexico. All of them are located in the Pacific Ocean.

To access the Earth’s mantle, researchers will have to drill through almost 3.7 miles of the sea floor before reaching the mantle. They will use one of the most advanced drilling vessels, the Chikyu, for the purpose.

“We already drilled and have taken some samples from the ocean floor but (only) from the top," said Abe. “(We want) to dig from the ocean floor to the deep pristine mantle."

Drilling is expected to begin in 2030.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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