Radioactive decay is key ingredient behind Earth’s heat

Nearly half of the Earth’s heat comes from the radioactive decay of materials inside, according to a large international research collaboration that includes a Kansas State University physicist.

Glenn Horton-Smith, associate professor of physics, was part of a team gathering some of the most precise measurements of the Earth’s radioactivity to date by observing the activity of subatomic particles — particularly uranium, thorium and potassium. Their work appears in the July issue of Nature Geoscience in the article “Partial radiogenic heat model for Earth revealed by geoneutrino measurements.”

“It is a high enough precision measurement that we can make a good estimate of the total amount of heat being produced by these fissions going on in naturally occurring uranium and thorium,” Horton-Smith said.

via Radioactive decay is key ingredient behind Earth’s heat.

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