Magnetite Nucleation in Mantle Xenoliths During Quasi-Adiabatic Ascent
Abstract:Can magnetite be a stable phase in the lithospheric mantle? Equilibrium-based thermodynamic calculations and petrologic models predict that it should not be stable. Studies of mantle xenoliths during the 1980s concluded that even though there were rare exceptions, mantle rocks do not host sufficient concentrations of ferromagnetic minerals and are too hot to allow any magnetic remanence. Thus, conventional wisdom dictates that the Moho constitutes a fundamental magnetic boundary. Yet, growing evidence from a more complete global mantle xenolith survey indicates the presence of ferromagnetic minerals in mantle materials. Examination of mantle xenoliths devoid of serpentinization and meteoric alteration show the presence of ferromagnetic minerals within primary silicate mineral phases, including olivine, pyroxene, and spinel. Nucleation of these magnetic minerals could occur at three different stages: in-situ in the mantle, upon ascent, and at the surface. This study reports the results of laboratory-based quasi-adiabatic decompression experiments that aim to simulate the ascent of mantle xenoliths through the lithosphere and test if magnetite growth is promoted during the process.
The starting material for these experiments is San Carlos olivine, which holds a magnetic remanence of less than ~10-10 A/m2-1kg2 (the detection limit of the vibrating sample magnetometer). This low starting remanence will allow us to identify whether new magnetic minerals are formed during the decompression experiments using either vibrating sample magnetometry or SQUID-based rock magnetometers. All olivine grains in these experiments were hand-picked under a light microscope in an effort to avoid the inclusion of grains with spurious magnetic minerals. Olivine powders from these carefully selected grains will be used to represent average mantle olivine compositions (Fo90-Fo92). Experiments will start at 1 GPa and be decompressed to 0.3 GPa over 60 hrs at constant temperature (1200° C). These experiments will provide an assessment of the stability of magnetic mineral assemblages within the mantle, unfettered by the effects of serpentinization and surficial oxidation, which in turn will better inform our understanding of long wavelength magnetic anomalies in the Earth.