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Reevaluation of metal interconnectivity in a partially molten silicate matrix using 3D microtomography

Abstract : Understanding metal-silicate differentiation in small rocky bodies that accreted early in solar system history requires quantification of the effects of variable amounts of silicate melt and molten metal on the connectivity of metal-rich liquids. To shed light on this question, the equilibrium geometry and textural ripening of metal grains in the vicinity of the metal interconnection threshold have been determined experimentally. High pressure and temperature experiments were performed in the three-phase system forsterite + silicate melt + nickel at conditions of 1 GPa and from 1773 K to 2080 K using piston-cylinder and Paris-Edinburgh presses. Sample microstructures were analyzed by 3D X-Ray microtomography either in-situ at the PSICHE beamline of the SOLEIL synchrotron, or on quenched samples using a laboratory Computed Tomography scan. Although dihedral angles point to textural equilibrium at the scale of individual grains at the end of each experiment, the attainment of textural equilibrium at sample scale is not straightforward. Depending on the relative proportions of the phases, different degrees of textural maturation are revealed. A particularly important issue is that time-resolved in-situ microtomography data show that cold (subsolidus) compression at the beginning of the experiment leads to soft metal grains being squeezed between silicates, leading to a forced interconnectivity of nickel. High temperature experiments with metal contents ≤20 vol% resulted in disruption of these forced networks, while the networks persisted in time for metal contents ≥25 vol%. This is taken to indicate that the stable interconnection threshold of pure nickel in a partially molten silicate matrix lies between 20 and 25 vol%. Therefore, we conclude that care must be taken when defining the interconnection threshold: not only should there be existence of a network of touching grains, but this network must persist in time in the absence of external forces and at pressure-temperature conditions that permit grain-boundary movement (i.e. excluding kinetically arrested systems). Growth of silicate grains is identified as the process driving textural maturation, and may explain the variability of interconnection thresholds reported in the literature. In addition, these considerations shed light on the diversity of textures observed in natural meteoritic samples (e.g. carbonaceous and ordinary chondrites and primitive achondrites), providing textural arguments to constrain the processes that affected these meteorites.
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Adrien Néri, Jeremy Guignard, Marc Monnereau, Misha Bystricky, Jean-Philippe Perrillat, et al.. Reevaluation of metal interconnectivity in a partially molten silicate matrix using 3D microtomography. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, Elsevier, 2020, pp.106571. ⟨10.1016/j.pepi.2020.106571⟩. ⟨hal-02919897⟩

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