Gravity & Geothermal: Why is Earth's Core so Hot?

In summary, the center of the Earth is hot due to the decay of radioactive materials when the Earth was young. Geothermal energy is a non-renewable source, but the amount we can extract is small compared to the Earth's age. The mass pushing down on the center of the Earth does not cause atomic decay and create heat, unlike in the sun. The Earth's heat is mainly generated from radioactive decay of heavy elements.
  • #1
gloo
261
2
Why is the center of the Earth so hot so that we can use geothermal? Will the Earth deep down always be hot because of the pressure of all the mass on top all the way to the surface? In that sense, can we always draw on the geothermal heat?
 
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  • #3
isn't it possible that all the mass pushing down on the center of the earth, can cause some kind of atomic decay and create the heat that way? After all, the sun's mass collapsing in on it's center does the same and the heat is radiated into space?
 
  • #4
gloo said:
isn't it possible that all the mass pushing down on the center of the earth, can cause some kind of atomic decay and create the heat that way?
No
After all, the sun's mass collapsing in on it's center does the same and the heat is radiated into space?
That's a whole lot more pressure

Some of the energy generated in the Earth is form the pressure of the overlying rocks, but radioactive decay is now the main source. This is mostly alpha/beta decay from radioactive heavy elements - very different from the fusion reactions in the sun
 

Related to Gravity & Geothermal: Why is Earth's Core so Hot?

1. What is the source of heat in Earth's core?

The primary source of heat in Earth's core is the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium, and potassium. This process, known as radioactive decay, produces heat as a byproduct, which contributes to the high temperatures in the core.

2. How does gravity play a role in heating Earth's core?

Gravity plays a crucial role in heating Earth's core by compressing the materials in the core, causing them to release heat. As matter is pulled toward the center of the Earth, it becomes more compact, increasing the pressure and temperature. This process, known as gravitational energy, is responsible for about 20% of the heat in the core.

3. Why is Earth's core hotter than the surface?

The Earth's core is hotter than the surface due to the combination of radioactive decay and gravitational energy. The heat generated from these processes cannot escape the core, so it accumulates and raises the temperature. Additionally, the insulating effect of the Earth's mantle and crust also contributes to the difference in temperature between the core and the surface.

4. How does geothermal energy relate to Earth's core?

Geothermal energy is the heat energy that is stored within the Earth's crust and mantle. It is closely related to the Earth's core because the heat from the core is what drives the convection currents in the mantle, which in turn, power geothermal energy. The heat from the core also contributes to the formation of geothermal features, such as hot springs and geysers.

5. Will the Earth's core eventually cool down?

The Earth's core is constantly losing heat through convection and conduction, and it is estimated that it will eventually cool down in the distant future. However, the rate at which this will occur is incredibly slow, and it is not something that will happen in our lifetime or even in the next few thousand years. The core will continue to be hot and provide the necessary energy for geological processes to occur on Earth.

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