Water has no effect on oxygen self-diffusion rate in forsterite
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Water is thought to play an essential role in dynamical processes in the Earth’s interior. Even several tens wt. ppm of water may enhance the creep rates in olivine by orders of magnitude based on deformation experiments [1, 2]. High temperature creep in olivine is believed to be controlled by self-diffusion of the slowest species, which is silicon in olivine. However, silicon self-diffusion experiments suggest that the role of water on olivine rheology is overestimated in previous deformation studies because of the experimental difficulties .
On the other hand, oxygen is the second slowest species with similar diffusion rate as silicon. It may also play an essential role in olivine creep. By comparing the oxygen self-diffusion coefficient (DO) in olivine at ambient pressure and dry conditions  with those at 2 GPa and hydrous conditions, it is found that even 30-50 wt. ppm of water could enhance DO by one order of magnitude . However, comparison of experimental results obtained at different pressures could lead to misinterpretations because different experimental setups have different error sources .
In this study, we systematically measured DO in an iron-free olivine, namely, forsterite, at 8 GPa and 1600-1800 K over a wide range of water content (CH2O) from <1 up to 800 wt. ppm. Our results show that DO∝(CH2O)0.05±0.06≈(CH2O)0. Thus, water has no significant effect on oxygen self-diffusion rate in forsterite. Since the water content dependence of silicon self-diffusion rate is also very small , the role of water on olivine rheology is not as significant as previously thought by assuming the diffusion controlled creep mechanism.
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