New publication in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Gay et al, Transformation microstructures in pyrolite under stress: Implications for anisotropy in subducting slabs below the 660 km discontinuity (2023) Earth and Planetary Science LettersNew year, and new publication for the TIMEleSS team! Former timeless PhD student Jeff Gay is the first author of Transformation microstructures in pyrolite under stress: Implications for anisotropy in subducting slabs below the 660 km discontinuity, published in the February 15, 2023, issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The publication is a result of a collaboration between partners at the Université de Lille (J. Gay, E. Ledoux, J. Chantel, S. Merkel), WWU Münster (N. Krug, C. Sanchez-Valle) with measurements at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (A. Pakhomova, H.-P. Liermann).

The ‘660’ discontinuity marks the boundary between the upper and lower mantle and is located 660 km below our feet. The is discontinuity often associated with a phase transitions in pyrolite, a model rock composition for the Earth’s mantle. In addition, there are ubiquitous reports of seismic anisotropy below the ‘660’ which are difficult to explain from a mineralogical point of view.

In this study, we implement multigrain crystallography X-ray diffraction in the laser-heated diamond anvil cell in order to track microstructures induced by phase transitions at the pressure and temperature conditions of the discontinuity, around 24 GPa and 1900 K. Before the onset of transformation, pyrolite minerals such as garnet and ringwoodite are isotropic and do not contribute to seismic anisotropy.  After the transformation, bridgmanite, the most abundant mineral in the Earth, displays a strong preferred orientation, which we attribute to growth under stress. Other minerals such as davemaoite and ferropericlase are also considered.

The results are used to model anisotropy in a subducting slab, with a prediction of no anisotropy above the ‘660’ and up to 1.28% (0.08 km/s) shear wave splitting below the ‘660’ and provide details on how detailed wave forms can be used to understand the geometry of stress at those depths.

Yet a second publication in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems: coesite-stishovite transition and the X-discontinuity

Textures Induced by the Coesite-Stishovite Transition and Implications for the Visibility of the X-Discontinuity, by M. KrugSeptember 2022 is a good month for the TIMEleSS project: we have a second publication in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems by the American Geophysical Union! TIMEleSS PhD student Matthias Krug is the first author of Textures induced by the coesite-stishovite transition and implications for the visibility of the X-discontinuity. The work is a result of the TIMEleSS collaboration and involves Morvarid Saki, Estelle Ledoux, Jeffrey P. Gay, Julien Chantel, Anna Pakhomova, Rachel Husband, Arno Rohrbach, Stephan Klemme, Christine Thomas, Sébastien Merkel, and Carmen Sanchez-Valle as co-authors.

Coesite is a high pressure polymorph of SiO2 formed from quartz at pressures above 2 to 3 GPa. In the Earth coesite is formed at approximately 70 km depth or more, depending on the exact temperature conditions. At pressures of 8 to 11 GPa, corresponding to approximately 250 to 300 km, yet another transformations occurs and coesite becomes stishovite. Stishovite was discovered experimentally in 1961 by Sergey M. Stishov and later found in Meteor Crater in Arizona. In parallel, seismic studies report widespread occurrence of velocity anomalies at ∼300 km depth in the Earth’s mantle, whose origin is still not well understood. In this work, Matthias Krug performed experiments to check whether the phase transition in SiO2 from coesite to stishovite could explain these observations and the reasons for the widespread but not global occurrence of the X-discontinuity at 300 km depth.

We reproduced the pressure and temperature conditions at 300 km depth in the laboratory and applied an advanced X-ray diffraction technique to monitor changes in the orientation of grains (i.e., microstructure) in the sample across the transition. We observe that the randomly oriented grains in the low-pressure phase coesite display strong preferred orientation when transformed to stishovite after the transition. In order to relate the experimental observations of grain orientations to the seismic detection of the X-discontinuity, we then computed the effect of grain orientations on the propagation of seismic waves and the velocity changes across the phase transitions. We conclude that 10 – 50 vol.% of crustal rocks embedded in the mantle are needed to explain the observed anomalies and propose that the intermittent observation of this anomaly is related to the seismic sampling strategy rather than to lack of silica anomalies (and hence the absence of the transition) in some specific mantle settings.

TIMEleSS Multigrain Wiki

TIMEleSS Multigrain WikiMultigrain X-ray diffraction (sometimes called 3D-XRD or HEDM depending on communities) allows characterizing hundreds of crystals in a polycrystalline material. It has been adapted to diamond anvil cell experiments for the investigation of materials under high pressure and high temperature. The method lies at the core of the experimental portion of the TIMEleSS project. We use it to characterize transformation and deformation microstructures in mantle minerals.

Multigrain X-ray diffraction can be hard to learn and implement. Hence, along the course of the project, timeless members documented their procedures for processing such data in an online documentation: the TIMEleSS Multigrain Wiki.

We are now finished with our rounds of experiments, data has been processed, and results are being submitted for publication, so it is time to give back to the community! The TIMEleSS Multigrain Wiki has been accessible for years to who knew the URL. Now the link is public and should be easy to find with your best search engines. Please use it, enjoy it, and do not hesitate to contact us if you want to contribute and suggest corrections

This wiki, among with other outputs, was used as a basis for the creation of the Commission on Diffraction Microstructure Imaging of the International Union of Crystallography. This new Commission on Diffraction Microstructure Imaging was established at the Prague General Assembly in August 2021 and TIMEleSS PI S. Merkel is one of the founding members for the application.

New publication in Frontiers in Earth Science

Deformation of Polycrystalline MgO Up to 8.3 GPa and 1270 K: Microstructures, Dominant Slip-Systems, and Transition to Grain Boundary SlidingWe have a new publication! On May 9th, 2022, former TIMEleSS PhD student Estelle Ledoux published a new paper in Frontiers in Earth Science: Deformation of Polycrystalline MgO Up to 8.3 GPa and 1270 K: Microstructures, Dominant Slip-Systems, and Transition to Grain Boundary Sliding.

The work is a result of a collaboration between the Université de Lille and the University of Utah. We focus on polycrystalline periclase, the pure Mg end-member of the second-most abundant mineral in the Earth lower mantle, ferro-periclase, for which mechanical properties are important to understand flow and the dynamics of the Earth mantle.

we deform polycrystalline periclase at conditions ranging from 1.6 to 8.3 GPa and 875–1,270 K. We analyse the flow laws and microstructures of the recovered samples using electron microscopy and compare our observations with predictions from the literature. We identify a first mechanism for samples deformed at 1,270 K, attributed to a regime controlled by grain boundary sliding accommodated by diffusion, and characterized by a small grain size, an absence of texture, and no intracrystalline deformation. At 1,070 K and below, the deformation regime is controlled by dislocations. The samples show a more homogeneous grain size distribution, significant texture, and intracrystalline strains. In this regime, deformation is controlled by the ⟨110⟩{110} slip system and a combined ⟨110⟩{110} and ⟨110⟩{100} slip, depending on pressure and temperature.

Based on these results, we propose an updated deformation map for polycrystalline MgO at mantle conditions and discuss the implications for ferropericlase and seismic observations in the Earth’s lower mantle.

More details can be found in the open-access full reference of the study: E. E. Ledoux, F. Lin, L. Miyagi, A. Addad,  A. Fadel, D. Jacob, F. Béclin, and S. Merkel. Deformation of Polycrystalline MgO Up to 8.3 GPa and 1270 K: Microstructures, Dominant Slip-Systems, and Transition to Grain Boundary Sliding. Front. Earth Sci. 10, 849777 (2022) [doi: 10.3389/feart.2022.849777]

We are hiring!

Post-doc position on wave propagation in structures and microstructures at the University of Lille, France

The TIMEleSS project is looking for a post-doctoral fellow. The position is available for 1 year and extendable. The position is attached to the Earth and Planetary Materials group the Unité Matériaux et Transformations, at the Université de Lille, France, with strong collaborations with the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Münster.

The post-doc will be in charge of  simulating wave propagation in structures and microstructures with the aim of interpreting deep Earth seismic observables.

The candidate should have a strong background in deep Earth seismology and/or wave propagation in complex media and/or mineral physics and will be in charge of connecting mineral physics knowledge of phase transformations and microstructures in the Earth’s mantle to potential observations of seismic reflections and scattering.

Details on the position, conditions, and requirements can be found in the following document. The review of of applications will start by January 31st 2020 and will continue until the position is filled. The position is expected to start in the spring or the summer of 2020.