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Feedback relations between deformation and metamorphic mineral reactions, derived using the principles of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, indicate that mineral reactions progress to completion in high-strain areas, driven by energy dissipated from inelastic deformation. These processes, in common with other time-dependent geological processes, lead to both strain, and strain-rate, hardening/softening in rate-dependent materials. In particular, strain-rate softening leads to the formation of shear zones, folds and boudins by non-Biot mechanisms. Strain-softening alone does not produce folding or boudinage and results in low-strain shear zones; strain-rate softening is necessary to produce realistic strains and structures. Reaction–mechanical feedback relations operating at the scale of 10–100 m produce structures similar to those that arise from thermal–mechanical feedback relations at coarser (kilometre) scales and reaction–diffusion–mechanical feedback relations at finer (millimetre) scales. The dominance of specific processes at various length scales but the development of similar structures by all coupled processes leads to scale invariance. The concept of non-equilibrium mineral stability diagrams is introduced. In principle, deformation influences the position of mineral stability fields relative to equilibrium stability fields; the effect is negligible for the quartzcoesite reaction but may be important for others. Application of these results to the development of structures and mineral reactions in the Italian Alps is discussed.

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