, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 271-285
Date: 05 Feb 2013

The high-pressure phase diagram of synthetic epsomite (MgSO4·7H2O and MgSO4·7D2O) from ultrasonic and neutron powder diffraction measurements

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Abstract

We present an ultrasonic and neutron powder diffraction study of crystalline MgSO4·7H2O (synthetic epsomite) and MgSO4·7D2O under pressure up to ~3 GPa near room temperature and up to ~2 GPa at lower temperatures. Both methods provide complementary data on the phase transitions and elasticity of magnesium sulphate heptahydrate, where protonated and deuterated counterparts exhibit very similar behaviour and properties. Under compression in the declared pressure intervals, we observed three different sequences of phase transitions: between 280 and 295 K, phase transitions occurred at approximately 1.4, 1.6, and 2.5 GPa; between 240 and 280 K, only a single phase transition occurred; below 240 K, there were no phase transformations. Overall, we have identified four new phase fields at high pressure, in addition to that of the room-pressure orthorhombic structure. Of these, we present neutron powder diffraction data obtained in situ in the three phase fields observed near room temperature. We present evidence that these high-pressure phase fields correspond to regions where MgSO4·7H2O decomposes to a lower hydrate by exsolving water. Upon cooling to liquid nitrogen temperatures, the ratio of shear modulus G to bulk modulus B increases and we observe elastic softening of both moduli with pressure, which may be a precursor to pressure-induced amorphization. These observations may have important consequences for modelling the interiors of icy planetary bodies in which hydrated sulphates are important rock-forming minerals, such as the large icy moons of Jupiter, influencing their internal structure, dynamics, and potential for supporting life.