Microscopic evidence of stishovite generated in low-pressure shock experiments on porous sandstone: Constraints on its genesis

1Ulrich Mansfeld, 1Falko Langenhorst, 2,3Matthias Ebert, 2Astrid Kowitz, 2Ralf Thomas Schmitt
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.12867]
1Institut für Geowissenschaften, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Jena, Germany
2Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Berlin, Germany
3Institut für Geo- und Umweltnaturwissenschaften, Geologie, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Germany
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

It has been almost exactly half a century since the first synthesis of stishovite in shock experiments on quartz was reported, but its formation conditions during shock is still under debate. Here, we present direct transmission electron microscopic observation of stishovite within material recovered from high-explosive shock experiments on porous sandstone shocked at 7.5 and 12.5 GPa. Our observations allow for new conclusions on the genesis of stishovite in a close-to-nature environment. The formation of stishovite in short-time shock experiments proves that its crystallization is ultrafast <!–(<1 μs). Crystals were found only embedded in amorphous veins indicating homogeneous nucleation. Crystallization from melt rather than from glass can be concluded from the observation of roundish, defect-free crystals up to 150 nm in diameter embedded in nondensified glass. The formation of stishovite at 7.5 GPa is in accordance with the phase diagram of silica, if rapid undercooling is present that becomes only possible by the existence of small hot spots in an otherwise cold material, which is supported by transient heat calculation. The absence of coesite at 7.5 GPa suggests kinetic hindrance of its crystallization from melt and, thus, smaller critical cooling rates compared to stishovite where critical cooling rates are estimated to be as large as 1011 K s−1. While the amorphous veins containing stishovite represent unambiguously hot spots, no associated pressure amplification could be verified within these veins. The rapid liquidus crystallization of stishovite only in hot spots generated in porous material is an alternative formation mechanism to the widely accepted theory of solid–solid transition from quartz to stishovite and might represent the more general mechanism occurring in nature for low shock pressure events.

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