Ostwald ripening as a possible mechanism for zircon overgrowth formation during anatexis: theoretical constraints, a numerical model, and its application to peltic migmatites of the Tickalara Metamorphics, northwestern Australia

Nemchin, A.A., Gannini, L.M., Bodorkos, S., and Oliver, N.H.S. (2001) Ostwald ripening as a possible mechanism for zircon overgrowth formation during anatexis: theoretical constraints, a numerical model, and its application to peltic migmatites of the Tickalara Metamorphics, northwestern Australia. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 65 (16). pp. 2771-2788.

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Abstract

A fundamental dichotomy exists between the low solubility of zircon in peraluminous melt predicted by experimental and geochemical studies and the large volume proportions of zircon overgrowths formed during high-temperature metamorphism and anatexis that are revealed by cathodoluminescence imaging. We investigate the potential of Ostwald ripening as a possible mechanism for overgrowth formation by presenting a numerical solution to the continuity equation governing open system, diffusion rate-limited Ostwald ripening in a zircon-saturated melt. Application of the model to a typical (log-normal) initial zircon crystal size distribution (CSD) suggests that despite uncertainties associated with the interfacial free energy of zircon, significant grain coarsening is possible via this mechanism under geological conditions and time scales relevant to high-grade metamorphism. Primary influences on the rate at which Ostwald ripening proceeds are (i) the temperature of the system, (ii) the duration of the time interval for which the system is above its solidus, and (iii) the nature of the initial (premelting) zircon CSD.

To test the viability of the model, we examine zircon CSDs from three high-grade pelitic migmatites of the Tickalara Metamorphics (northwestern Australia), assuming that zircon crystals hosted by melanosome biotite were permanently occluded from the melt (and therefore approximate the premelting CSD). The model predicts that within 1 to 2 Ma, these biotite-hosted zircon CSDs will evolve into the observed leucosome-hosted zircon CSDs via melt-present Ostwald ripening, under geological conditions applicable to peak metamorphism.

Although we have not conclusively demonstrated that Ostwald ripening contributed to changes in zircon CSDs during anatexis of the Tickalara metapelites, our results suggest that Ostwald ripening is a viable mechanism for zircon volume transfer in a zircon-saturated melt and capable of playing a significant role in overgrowth formation in rocks where the total volume of zircon overgrowths substantially exceeds the concentration of zircon dissolvable in the coexisting melt.

Item ID: 13213
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: metamorphism; Ostwald; zircon overgrowth
ISSN: 1872-9533
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2010 22:45
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040304 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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