Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 277–291 | Cite as

Crystal size distribution (CSD) in rocks and the kinetics and dynamics of crystallization

I. Theory
  • Bruce D. Marsh


Crystal-size in crystalline rocks is a fundamental measure of growth rate and age. And if nucleation spawns crystals over a span of time, a broad range of crystal sizes is possible during crystallization. A population balance based on the number density of crystals of each size generally predicts a log-linear distribution with increasing size. The negative slope of such a distribution is a measure of the product of overall population growth rate and mean age and the zero size intercept is nucleation density. Crystal size distributions (CSDs) observed for many lavas are smooth and regular, if not actually linear, when so plotted and can be interpreted using the theory of CSDs developed in chemical engineering by Randolph and Larson (1971). Nucleation density, nucleation and growth rates, and orders of kinetic reactions can be estimated from such data, and physical processes affecting the CSD (e.g. crystal fractionation and accumulation, mixing of populations, annealing in metamorphic and plutonic rocks, and nuclei destruction) can be gauged through analytical modeling. CSD theory provides a formalism for the macroscopic study of kinetic and physical processes affecting crystallization, within which the explicit affect of chemical and physical processes on the CSD can be analytically tested. It is a means by which petrographic information can be quantitatively linked to the kinetics of crystallization, and on these grounds CSDs furnish essential information supplemental to laboratory kinetic studies. In this three part series of papers, Part I provides the general CSD theory in a geological context, while applications to igneous and metamorphic rocks are given, respectively, in Parts II and III.


Crystallization Fractionation Physical Process Metamorphic Rock Population Growth Rate 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce D. Marsh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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