Atomic-scale simulation of space weathering in olivine and orthopyroxene

AH Quadery and S Pacheco and A Au and N Rizzacasa and J Nichols and T Le and C Glasscock and PK Schelling, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH- PLANETS, 120, 643-661 (2015).

DOI: 10.1002/2014JE004683

Classical molecular dynamics was used to study the annealing of anion and cation Frenkel defects in olivine and orthopyroxene minerals. While it was found that for both minerals, reorganization of the Si-O bonds, often accompanied by large Si displacements, occurs to maintain the fourfold coordination of the SiO4 tetrahedra, important differences are observed in their annealing behavior. Specifically, cation defects are substantially more mobile in olivine than in orthopyroxene leading to rapid annihilation of cation Frenkel defects and formation of extended defects in olivine. By contrast, the diffusion rate of anion defects in orthopyroxene is much higher than that in olivine and also exhibits large anisotropy. Consequently, it was found that diffusion in orthopyroxene occurs without significant annihilation of anion Frenkel defects or trapping of anion interstitials or vacancies into clusters. The results obtained here are discussed in the context of space weathering of olivine and orthopyroxene. Specifically, two important observations are made which may explain previous experimental results. First, ion irradiation experiments that show reduced tolerance for radiation damage in orthopyroxene may be explained by the rapid, one- dimensional anion mobility which prevents healing of the lattice. Second, laser heating experiments which show that orthopyroxene has enhanced tolerance to reduction and the evolution of nanophase Fe inclusions could be due to the observed rapid anion diffusion in orthopyroxene, which might allow the bulk to act as a reservoir for the surface.

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