London, March 15 (ANI): Reports indicate that scientists have detected anti-matter particles, known as geo-neutrinos, emitted during nuclear reactions within the Earth's crust for the first time.
According to a report in the Times, the measurements, by a detector buried more than one kilometre beneath the Italian town of l'Aquila in Italy, will help determine the chemical composition of the Earth's interior.
The findings could significantly improve the accuracy of models used to predict seismic events such as earthquakes and volcanoes.
Until now, scientists have relied on measuring seismic waves during earthquakes to infer the mechanical properties of the Earth's mantle and core, but their chemical makeup has remained a matter of theoretical speculation.
The latest findings, at the Borexino detector, pave the way for the first direct measurements of chemicals deep beneath the Earth's crust.
"Borexino has opened a new window which allows us to look straight into the interior of the Earth, to a depth of up to thousands of kilometers," said Professor Giovanni Fiorentini, who co-ordinated the project at the underground Gran Sasso National Laboratory of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).
Geo-neutrinos, which have almost no mass and no electrical charge, are emitted when radioactive elements in the Earth's mantle decay into more stable substances.
The decay of elements such as uranium and thorium are thought to contribute more than 50 per cent of the heat generated inside the planet, but the exact fraction is unknown.
The heat leads to convection currents in the mantle that influence volcanic activity and tectonic plate movements.
Measuring the number of geo-neutrinos emitted, and their energies, could help determine the proportions of different radioactive substances in the Earth's mantle and the amount of heat energy they contribute.
At more than a kilometer underground, the 18-meter (59-foot) diameter Borexino detector is one of the Earth's deepest laboratories.
Geo-neutrinos passing through the detector interact with the fluid causing a flash of light, which is picked up by one of the thousands of inward facing photo-sensors.
Professor Giorgio Gratta, a physicist at Stanford University in California and a collaborator on the KamLAND project, described the work as a significant step forward.
"We know more about what's at the centre of the sun than what's at the centre of the Earth - our models are really very rudimentary," he said.
"Now using geo-neutrino detectors, we can really measure what's coming out of the Earth. It's certainly very exciting," he added. (ANI)