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Though it may sound like a contradiction to obtain detailed information about large-scale processes such as mountain building, plate tectonics, global recycling or even the origin and formation of our solar system from investigations at the nanoscopic to atomic scale, the step from the micro- to the nanoscale is indeed the most important one. This is not just analysis with greater magnification, but the study of matter at a fundamental level.

To better understand geodynamic processes such as subduction, continent–continent collision or exhumation of oceanic or continental crust, it is essential to quantify the evolution of each component in as much detail as possible. records of all of these processes are kept in the microstructures. In addition to the widely used geothermobarometric methods based on element partitioning between minerals, microstructures provide a variety of systems to determine temperature-time histories (e.g. Buseck & Iijima, 1975; Buseck et al., 1980; Robinson et al., 1971, 1977; Schröpfer et al., 1990; Skrotzki et al., 1991; Skrotzki, 1992; Schumacher et al., 1994; Klein et al., 1996; Joanny et al., 1991; Carpenter, 1981b; Müller, 1991; Müller et al., 1995; Veblen, 1991; Weinbruch & Müller, 1995).

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