High electrical conductivity in upper mantle



In a joint study by geophysicists at two national laboratories, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, it was concluded that upper-mantle rocks may have relatively high electrical conductivity, presumably because of small amounts of carbon situated along grain boundaries. This impurity conductivity is similar to values determined in the laboratory for low-grade oil shale during pyrolysis. The residual char has electrical conductivity of 10−1 to 10−2 S/m, which is as much as 106 greater than the conductivity of unpyrolized low-grade oil shale (T. Shankland and A. Duba, Carbon-enhanced electrical conductivity in rocks (abstract), Eos, 63, 438, 1982). This much is known; the implications follow.