Physics and Chemistry of Minerals

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 139–172 | Cite as

The structure and composition of olivine grain boundaries: 40 years of studies, status and current developments

  • K. Marquardt
  • U. H. Faul
Review Article


Interfaces in rocks, especially grain boundaries in olivine dominated rocks, have been subject to about 40 years of studies. The grain boundary structure to property relation is fundamental to understand the diverging properties of polycrystalline samples compared to those of single crystals. The number of direct structural observations is small, i.e. in range of 100 micrographs, and the number of measurements of properties directly linked to structural observations is even smaller. Bulk aggregate properties, such as seismic attenuation, rheology and electrical conductivity, are sensitive to grain size, and seem to show influences by grain boundary character distributions. In this context we review previous studies on grain boundary structure and composition and plausible relations to bulk properties. The grain boundary geometry is described using five independent parameters; generally, their structural width ranges between 0.4–1.2 nm and the commonly used 1 nm seems a good approximation. This region of enhanced disorder is often enriched in elements that are incompatible in the perfect crystal lattice. The chemical composition of grain boundaries depends on the bulk rock composition. We determined the 5 parameter grain boundary character distribution (GBCD) for polycrystaline Fo\(_{90}\) and studied structure and chemistry at the nm-scale to extend previous measurements. We find that grain boundary planes close to perpendicular to the crystallographic c-direction dominate the grain boundary network. We conclude that linking grain boundary structure in its full geometric parameter space to variations of bulk rock properties is now possible by GBCD determination using EBSD mapping and statistical analyses.


Olivine Grain Boundaries Upper mantle Deformation Seismic attenuation Electrical conductivity Forsterite Interfaces Segregation Incompatible elements 



We gratefully acknowledge discussions with our colleagues John Fitz Gerald, Ian Jackson and Chris Cline as well as Hauke Marquardt and Nobuyoshi Miyajima. We are also grateful for the technical support at ANU (Harri Kokkonen, Hayden Miller) and BGI (Hubert Schulz, Raphael Njul). U.F. acknowledges support from NSF grant EAR-1321889 and EAR-1464024. KM acknowledges support from the German Science Foundation (MA6287/3, MA6287/6). We also acknowledge the Earthquake Research Institute’s cooperative research program, and thank Sanae Koizumi for the sample synthesis at ERI in Tokyo. The FEI Scios FIB machine at BGI Bayreuth is supported through grant INST 91/315-1 FUGG. We are grateful to Sylvie Demouchy and one anonymous reviewer for their meticulous and thorough reviews. Any surviving errors of omission or commission are entirely ours.

Supplementary material


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bayerisches GeoinstitutUniversität BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary sciencesMassachusetts institute of technologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Research School of Earth SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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