Quantitative textural analysis of packings of elongate crystals
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The spatial distribution of grains in a solidifying igneous rock controls the physical properties of the crystal mush, and in turn is controlled by the rate of crystal growth and accumulation. A predominant non-spherical habit for igneous minerals brings into question the use of spherical particles in reference packings used for quantification of spatial distribution. Furthermore, variations of crystal clustering/ordering with length scale require spatial statistics which take into account the distribution of particles beyond nearest neighbours. Using random close packings of spherocylinders, we demonstrate the importance of aspect ratio for the aggregation index (usually known as R) and show that packings of spherical particles have more structure than packings of rods. The spatial distribution functions demonstrate that the plagioclase grains in the colonnade from the Holyoke basalt are clustered on a length scale of 0.5 mm. Understanding the controls on grain spatial distribution in igneous rocks will depend on the application of these techniques to well-understood environments.