Iron-loving elements tell stories of Earth’s history | Science News

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Iron-loving elements tell stories of Earth’s history

Platinum, gold and other rare metals are treasure trove

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7:00am, July 27, 2016
iron

PRECIOUS METAL  Geochemists explore platinum, gold and other rare elements that are attracted to iron to understand how Earth's core formed billions of years ago. 

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Four and a half billion years ago, after Earth’s fiery birth, the infant planet began to radically reshape itself, separating into distinct layers. Metals — mostly iron with a bit of nickel — fell toward the center to form a core. The growing core also vacuumed up other metallic elements, such as platinum, iridium and gold.

By the time the core finished forming, about 30 million years later, it had sequestered more than 98 percent of these precious elements. The outer layers of the planet — the mantle and the crust — had barely any platinum and gold left. That’s why these metals are so rare today.

Battles have been fought, and wars won, over the pull of shiny precious metals, which have long symbolized power and influence. But for scientists, the rare metals’ lure is less about their shimmering beauty than about the powerful stories they can tell about how the Earth, the moon and

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