Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 37–53

An experimental study of Ostwald ripening of olivine and plagioclase in silicate melts: implications for the growth and size of crystals in magmas

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00410-005-0002-2

Cite this article as:
Cabane, H., Laporte, D. & Provost, A. Contrib Mineral Petrol (2005) 150: 37. doi:10.1007/s00410-005-0002-2


We carried out an experimental study to characterize the kinetics of Ostwald ripening in the forsterite-basalt system and in the plagioclase (An65)-andesite system. Eight experiments were done in each system to monitor the evolution of mean grain size and crystal size distribution (CSD) with time t; the experiments were performed in a 1-atmosphere quench furnace, at 1,250°C for plagioclase and 1,300°C for olivine. Very contrasted coarsening kinetics were observed in the two series. In the plagioclase series, the mean grain size increased as log(t), from ≈3 μm to only 8.7 μm in 336 h. The kinetic law in log(t) means that Ostwald ripening was rate-limited by surface nucleation at plagioclase-liquid interfaces. In the olivine series, the mean grain size increased as t1/3, from ≈3 μm to 23.2 μm in 496 h. A kinetic law in t1/3 is expected when Ostwald ripening is rate-limited either by diffusion in the liquid or by grain growth/dissolution controlled by a screw dislocation mechanism. The shape of olivine CSDs, in particular their positive skewness, indicates that grain coarsening in the olivine experiments was controlled by a screw dislocation mechanism, not by diffusion. As the degrees of undercooling ΔT (or supersaturation) involved in Ostwald ripening are essentially <1°C, the mechanisms of crystal growth identified in our experiments are expected to be those prevailing during the slow crystallisation of large magma chambers. We extrapolated our experimental data to geological time scales to estimate the effect of Ostwald ripening on the size of crystals in magmas. In the case of plagioclase, Ostwald ripening is only efficient for mean grain sizes of a few microns to 20 μm, even for a time scale of 105 years. It can, however, result in a significant decrease of the number of small crystals per unit volume, and contribute to the development of convex upwards CSDs. For olivine, the mean grain size increases from 2–3 μm to ≈70 μm in 1 year and 700 μm in 103 years; a mean grain size of 3 mm is reached in 105 years. Accordingly, the rate of grain size-dependent processes, such as compaction of olivine-rich cumulates or melt extraction from partially molten peridotites, may significantly be enhanced by textural coarsening.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansCNRS/Université Blaise Pascal/IRD, OPGCClermont-Ferrand CedexFrance
  2. 2.Saint-Gobain Cristaux et Détecteurs, BP 521Nemours cédexFrance

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