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Rates of element diffusion in olivine and implications for the deep structure of the Earth


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Rates of element diffusion in olivine and implications for the deep structure of the Earth
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Date Coverage
2007-01-01 to 2009-01-01
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  1. Type: brief

    This dataset is the most comprehensive study of trace-element diffusion in any silicate minerals. The results provide important insights in olivine crystal-chemistry and can be used to constrain timescales of magmatic processes.

  2. Type: full

    Lattice diffusion coefficients have been determined for 19 elements (Li, Be, Na, Ca, Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Zn, Y, Zr, Eu, Gd, Lu and Hf) in a single crystal of San Carlos olivine as a function of crystallographic orientation, at 1,300°C, 1 bar and fO2 = 10-8.3 bars, by equilibration with a synthetic silicate melt. Results for Li, Na, V, Cr, Fe and Zn are from diffusion of these elements out of the olivine, starting from their indigenous concentrations; those for all other elements are from diffusion into the olivine, from the silicate melt reservoir. Our 25-day experiment produced diffusion profiles 50 to > 700 µm length, which are sufficiently long that precise analyses could be achieved by scanning laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, even at concentration levels well below 1 µg g-1. For the divalent cations Ca, Mn, Fe and Ni, profiles were also obtained by electron microprobe analysis. The results of the two methods agree well with each other, and are consistent with divalent cation diffusion coefficients previously determined using different experimental methodologies. Olivine/melt partition coefficients retrieved from the data are also consistent with other published partitioning data, indicating that element incorporation and transport in olivine in our experiment occurred via mechanisms appropriate to natural conditions. Most of the examined trace elements diffuse through olivine at similar rates to the major octahedral cations Fe and Mg, showing that cation charge and radius have little direct influence on diffusion rates. Aluminium and P remain low and constant in the olivine, implying negligible transport at our analytical scale, hence Al and P diffusion rates that are at least two orders of magnitude slower than the other cations studied here. All determined element diffusivities are anisotropic, with diffusion fastest along the [001] axis, except Y and the REEs, which diffuse isotropically. The results suggest that element diffusivity in olivine is largely controlled by cation site preference, charge balance mechanisms and point-defect concentrations. Elements that are present on multiple cation sites in olivine (e.g. Be and Ti) and trivalent elements that are charge-balanced by octahedral site vacancies tend to diffuse at relatively fast rates.

  3. Type: note

    Data download contains: - Three (3) MS Excel 97-2004 workbook (.xls) files detailing -- Major (wt% oxide) and trace (µg g-1) element composition of glass and San Carlos olivine used in the 25-day experiment -- Calculated diffusion coefficients (D) in m2/s -- Calculated olivine/melt partition coefficients (KM) - Supplementary Item 1 -- provided as MPEG4 and MS Word 97-2004 (.doc) format -- Composite MPEG-4 (mp4) movie (7.3 MB) showing the analysis of a diffusion profile (in real time) by scanning LA ICP-MS. - Supplementary Item 2: Data fitting, systematic errors, accuracy and precision - provided in MS Word 97-2004 document (.doc) format - Supplementary Item 3: Diagram showing sterographic projections to poles of crystallographic aces of a section of the San Carlos olivine crucible used in the experiment - provided as PDF - Supplementary Item 4: Quantifying diffusional fluxes of REEs into melt inclusions - provided as PDF

Related Publications
  1. Diffusion and partition coefficients of minor and trace elements in San Carlos olivine at 1,300°C with some geochemical implications
  2. Diffusion and partition coefficients of minor and trace elements in San Carlos olivine at 1,300°C with some geochemical implications
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  1. Managed by: Dr Carl Spandler , School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Primary Contact
Dr Carl Spandler,
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  1. Hugh St. C. O'Neill, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
Fields of Research
  1. 040202 - Inorganic Geochemistry (040202) (040202)
  2. 040304 - Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (040304) (040304)
Socio-Economic Objective
  1. 970104 - Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences (970104) (970104)
  1. olivine
  2. trace elements
  3. crystal chemistry
  4. mantle
  5. basalt
  6. diffusion
Research Activity
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Research Themes
Not aligned to a University theme
CC BY: Attribution 3.0 AU
License - Other
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Access Rights/Conditions
Open Access. If the data is not available via the provided link, please contact an associated party (preferably the Manager as specified) for access.
This dataset is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution v3.0 Australian licence.
Data Location
Online Locations
  1. (Data File, Public)
Stored At
Dr Carl Spandler, School of Earth and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, AUSTRALIA, Tel: +61 7 4781 6911
Spandler, Carl.; O'Neill, Hugh. (2011). Rates of element diffusion in olivine and implications for the deep structure of the Earth. James Cook University. (dataset).