Discrepancies Between Laboratory Shock Experiments on Minerals and Natural Events


de Carli, P. S., Xie, Z., & Sharp, T. G. (2009, December). Discrepancies between laboratory shock experiments on minerals and natural events. In AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 2009, pp. MR12A-07).


Numerous laboratory shock recovery experiments performed over the past 50 years have provided substantial data on the effects of shock waves on rocks and minerals. However, it has become increasingly clear that the pressure “calibrations” based on shock effects observed in these experiments are inconsistent with interpretations based on static high-pressure data. A fundamental question is whether shock pressures are somehow different from static high pressures. Fifty years ago, many journal reviewers doubted that phase transformations could take place on a sub-microsecond time scale. Shock wave workers responded by invoking “special” properties of shock compression. However, all available evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that phase transitions under shock pressure are no different from phase transitions under static high pressures. The discrepancies noted above result from the fact that the parameter space, especially shock pressure duration, accessible to shock recovery experiments is so small by comparison with natural events. Furthermore virtually all shock recovery experiments on rocks and minerals have used high impedance sample containers, with the result that the samples have been subjected to thermodynamic loading paths substantially from a natural event. Consider the case of a chondritic meteorite made up of minerals having a wide range of shock properties. In a natural shock event the transient (nano-second scale) shock pressure at the shock front can vary by as much as an order of magnitude from grain to grain or even within a single grain. There are corresponding local differences in shock temperature. Assuming a mineral grain size of about a mm, the pressure inhomogeneities will equilibrate in less than a microsecond, wheras the temperature inhomogenities will require seconds to equilibrate. Recent studies of high-pressure phases in meteorites have provided evidence for pressure durations in the range of seconds, long enough for high pressure phases to crystallize from a melt or transform via solid-solid mechanisms. In contrast, the sample shock loaded in a laboratory experiment in a high impedance container reaches peak pressure via a series of shock reflections. As a result, shock and post-shock temperatures correspond to a sample naturally shocked to a substantially lower ( 20-60 %, dependent on sample mineralogy and porosity) equilibrium pressure. The effect of differences in the shock properties of the individual minerals is also greatly reduced. Shock pressure durations in the range of seconds have been inferred from studies of naturally shocked meteorites, whereas the effective duration of a shock recovery experiment is about a microsecond. Shock effects that involve reconstructive phase transformations, and therefore nucleation and growth, are highly dependent on both temperature and duration. Finally, the laboratory experiments are conducted on a small scale; samples cool from their equilibrium post-shock temperature in seconds. In a large natural event, the cooling time can be thousands of years.

Keywords: MINERALOGY AND PETROLOGY, Ultra-high pressure metamorphism, MINERAL PHYSICS, Shock wave experiments

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