Research ArticleEARTH SCIENCES

Low-temperature plasticity of olivine revisited with in situ TEM nanomechanical testing

Science Advances  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1501671
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501671

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The rheology of the lithospheric mantle is fundamental to understanding how mantle convection couples with plate tectonics. However, olivine rheology at lithospheric conditions is still poorly understood because experiments are difficult in this temperature range where rocks and mineral become very brittle. We combine techniques of quantitative in situ tensile testing in a transmission electron microscope and numerical modeling of dislocation dynamics to constrain the low-temperature rheology of olivine. We find that the intrinsic ductility of olivine at low temperature is significantly lower than previously reported values, which were obtained under strain-hardened conditions. Using this method, we can anchor rheological laws determined at higher temperature and can provide a better constraint on intermediate temperatures relevant for the lithosphere. More generally, we demonstrate the possibility of characterizing the mechanical properties of specimens, which can be available in the form of submillimeter-sized particles only.

  • Earth sciences
  • plate tectonics
  • rheology
  • mineral physics
  • olivine
  • dislocations
  • in situ TEM

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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