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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
11 Feb 2014
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE). The revised manuscript was not accepted.
Is there a layer deep in the Earth that uncouples heat from mechanical work?
S. J. Burns1 and S. P. Burns2,3 1Materials Science Program, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA
2National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80301, USA
3Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
Abstract. The thermal expansion coefficient is presented as the coupling between heat energy and mechanical work. It is shown that when heat and work are uncoupled then very unusual material properties occurs: for example, acoustic p waves are not damped and heat is not generated from mechanical motion. It is found that at pressures defined by the bulk modulus divided by the Anderson–Grüneisen parameter, then the thermal expansion coefficient approaches zero in linear-elastic models. Very large pressures always reduce thermal expansion coefficients; the importance of a very small or even negative thermal expansion coefficient is discussed in relation to physical processes deep in the core and mantle of Earth. Models of the thermal expansion coefficients based on interatomic potentials which are always relegated to isometric conditions preclude any changes in volume due to temperature changes. However, it is known that the pressures in the Earth are large enough to effectively reduce thermal expansion coefficients to near zero which decouples heat from mechanical work.

Citation: Burns, S. J. and Burns, S. P.: Is there a layer deep in the Earth that uncouples heat from mechanical work?, Solid Earth Discuss., 6, 487-509, doi:10.5194/sed-6-487-2014, 2014.
S. J. Burns and S. P. Burns
S. J. Burns and S. P. Burns


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