Rheological Weakening of Olivine + Orthopyroxene Aggregates Due to Phase Mixing: 1. Mechanical Behavior

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To understand the processes involved in rheological weakening due to phase mixing in olivine + orthopyroxene aggregates, we conducted high-strain torsion experiments on two-phase samples at a temperature of 1200°C and a confining pressure of 300 MPa. Samples composed of iron-rich olivine plus 26% orthopyroxene were deformed to outer radius shear strains of up to γ ≈ 26. Values for the stress exponent, n, and grain size exponent, p, were determined based on least squares fits of the strain rate, stress, and grain size data to a power law creep equation both at smaller strains (γ ≤ 3) and at larger strains (γ ≥ 24). Microstructural observations demonstrate that with increasing shear strain, grain size decreased and mixtures of small, equant grains of olivine and pyroxene developed. The values of n and p combined with associated changes in microstructure demonstrate that our samples deformed (i) by dislocation-accommodated grain-boundary sliding with subgrains present at lower strains and (ii) by dislocation-accommodated grain-boundary sliding with subgrains absent at higher strains. The evolution of both the mechanical and the microstructural properties observed in this study provide insights into the dynamic processes associated with rheological weakening and strain localization in the plastically deforming portion of the lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7584-7596
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank A. Dillman, J. Tielke, M. Pec, C. Qi, C. Meyers, and Z. Michels for valuable technical assistance and stimulating discussions. We also thank T. Hiraga, M. Morishige, and H. Stunitz for their critical discussions. The manuscript was significantly improved by insightful comments from two reviewers, R. Cooper, L. Hansen, and an Editor, M. Walter. This research was supported by a JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists 26-4879 and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science 16K17832 (M.T.), NASA grant NNX15AL53G (D.L.K.), NASA grant NNX11AF58G (M.E.Z), and NSF grant EAR-1345060 (M.E.Z.). SEM analyses were carried out in the Institute of Technology Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. Data used in this paper are available in the main text and supporting information.

Publisher Copyright:
©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • deformation
  • olivine
  • phase mixing
  • pyroxene
  • rheological weakening


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