Grain growth and the lifetime of diffusion creep deformation
Mark A. Pearce, John Wheeler, 2011. "Grain growth and the lifetime of diffusion creep deformation", Deformation Mechanisms, Rheology and Tectonics: Microstructures, Mechanics and Anisotropy, David J. Prior, Ernest H. Rutter, Daniel J. Tatham
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Extreme grain-size reduction due to cataclasis, neocrystallization or phase change results in a switch to diffusion creep and dramatic weakening in deforming rocks. Grain growth increases strength until dislocation creep becomes a significant deformation mechanism. We quantify the ‘lifetime’ of diffusion creep by substituting the normal grain growth law into the diffusion creep flow law to calculate the time taken for dislocation creep to become significant. Stress-temperature and strain-rate-temperature space is outlined where diffusion creep may accommodate significant strain: these regions have an upper temperature limit beyond which grain growth is fast enough to move the rock quickly into the dislocation creep field. For plagioclase the limit lies in the amphibolite facies. Rocks in a mantle upwelling experience grain-size reduction during phase changes. Pressure-dependent grain growth limits the deformation that can be accommodated by diffusion creep. This time limit and associated strain limit is independent of starting grain size with a small dependence on upwelling rate and plume width. In both these tectonic environments, second phases are likely to play a role in the maximum achievable grain size due to grain-boundary pinning. Hence we predict the minimum lifetimes of diffusion-creep-dominated deformation following extreme grain-size reduction.
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This collection of papers presents recent advances in the study of deformation mechanisms and rheology and their applications to tectonics. Many of the contributions exploit new petrofabric techniques, particularly electron backscatter diffraction, to help understand evolution of rock microstructure and mechanical properties. Papers in the first section (lattice preferred orientations and anisotropy) show a growing emphasis on the determination of elastic properties from petrofabrics, from which acoustic properties can be computed for comparison with in-situ seismic measurements. Such research will underpin geodynamic interpretation of large-scale active tectonics. Contributions in the second section (microstructures, mechanisms and rheology) study the relations between microstructural evolution during deformation and mechanical properties. Many of the papers explore how different mechanisms compete and interact to control the evolution of grain size and petrofabrics. Contributors make use of combinations of laboratory experiments, field studies and computational methods, and several relate microstructural and mechanical evolution to large-scale tectonic processes observed in nature.