Conventional experiments designed to investigate the mechanical properties of polycrystalline geological materials are generally restricted to measurements of whole-rock properties. However, when comparing the measurements with theoretical models, it is frequently essential to understand how the deformation is accommodated at the grain-scale. This is particularly true for polymineralic rocks because in this case most theories express the whole-rock properties as some function of the properties of their constituent minerals, and hence the contribution which each phase makes to those properties must be measured if the theories are to be fully assessed. The penetrating nature of neutrons offers a method of addressing this problem. By performing deformation experiments in the neutron beam-line and collecting neutron diffraction patterns at different applied loads, the lattice parameters of all the mineral phases present may be determined as a function of load. The elastic strain experienced by each phase is then easily determined. Moreover, the strain in different lattice directions is also obtained. From this information a wide range of problems relevant for the characterization of the elastic and plastic deformation behaviour of polymineralic geological materials can be explored. An experimental technique for carrying out such experiments is described, and its validity is demonstrated by showing that the results obtained from deforming an elastically isotropic olivine + magnesiowüstite sample agree, to within very tight bounds, with the behaviour predicted by theory for elastically isotropic composites.

You do not currently have access to this article.