The effect of lower mantle metallization on magnetic field generation in rocky exoplanets

R. Vilim, S. Stanley, L. Elkins-Tanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Recent theoretical and experimental evidence indicates that many of the materials that are thought to exist in the mantles of terrestrial exoplanets will metallize and become good conductors of electricity at mantle pressures. This allows for strong electromagnetic coupling of the core and the mantle in these planets. We use a numerical dynamo model to study the effect of a metallized lower mantle on the dynamos of terrestrial exoplanets using several inner core sizes and mantle conductivities. We find that the addition of an electrically conducting mantle results in stronger core-mantle boundary fields because of the increase in magnetic field stretching. We also find that a metallized mantle destabilizes the dynamo resulting in less dipolar, less axisymmetric poloidal magnetic fields at the core-mantle boundary. The conducting mantle efficiently screens these fields to produce weaker surface fields. We conclude that a conducting mantle will make the detection of extrasolar terrestrial magnetic fields more difficult while making the magnetic fields in the dynamo region stronger.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL30
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • planets and satellites: detection
  • planets and satellites: interiors
  • planets and satellites: magnetic fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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