In situ observation of crystal growth in a basalt melt and the development of crystal size distribution in igneous rocks

  • Huaiwei Ni
  • Hans Keppler
  • Nicolas Walte
  • Federica Schiavi
  • Yang Chen
  • Matteo Masotta
  • Zhenjiang Li
Original Paper


To understand the solidification processes of natural magma and the texture evolution of igneous rocks, we have carried out in situ observation of the crystallization of a high-K basaltic melt cooling from ~1,240 °C in a moissanite cell. In a series of experiments with different thermal history, olivine or clinopyroxene (cpx) appeared as the liquidus phase before the formation of plagioclase. During cooling at 100 °C/h, the morphology of olivine and cpx transited from tabular to hopper habit. To first order approximation, crystal grow rate (2 × 10−9 to 7 × 10−9 m/s for olivine and 6 × 10−9 to 17 × 10−9 m/s for cpx), probably limited by chemical diffusion, is proportional to crystal size. In one experiment dominated by olivine crystallization, the good image quality allows the analysis of texture evolution over an extended period. Nucleation of olivine occurred only in a narrow temperature and time interval below the liquidus. Two-dimensional length- and area-based crystal size distributions (CSDs) show counterclockwise rotation around axes of 8 μm and 100 μm2, which is consistent with the proportionate crystal growth. Both CSDs and direct observation show the dissolution of small crystals and Ostwald ripening. These data suggest that conventional analyses of crystal size distributions of igneous rocks may be in error—the slope of the CSD cannot be interpreted in terms of a uniform growth rate, and the intercept with the vertical axis does not correspond to a nucleation density.


Crystal growth Crystal size distribution Basalt melt Igneous rocks 



We thank Hubert Schulze and Raphael Njul for sample preparation, Sven Linhardt for technical assistance, Ulrike Trenz, Yuan Li and Mattia Giannini for SEM and EMPA analyses, and Julia Hammer and an anonymous reviewer for constructive reviews. Discussion with Andreas Audétat and Youxue Zhang was beneficial. This work was supported by the visitor program of Bayerisches Geoinstitut, Germany, the 111 Project of Ministry of Education, China, the Recruitment Program of Global Experts (Thousand Talents), China, and the Natural Science Foundation of China (41322015).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Huaiwei Ni
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans Keppler
    • 1
  • Nicolas Walte
    • 1
  • Federica Schiavi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yang Chen
    • 4
  • Matteo Masotta
    • 1
  • Zhenjiang Li
    • 2
  1. 1.Bayerisches GeoinstitutUniversität BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.CAS Key Laboratory of Crust-Mantle Materials and Environments, School of Earth and Space SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  3. 3.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansUniversité Blaise PascalClermont-FerrandFrance
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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