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The strength of Mg0.9Fe0.1SiO3 perovskite at high pressure and temperature

An Erratum to this article was published on 12 December 2002


The Earth's lower mantle consists mainly of (Mg,Fe)SiO3 perovskite and (Mg,Fe)O magnesiowüstite, with the perovskite taking up at least 70 per cent of the total volume1. Although the rheology of olivine, the dominant upper-mantle mineral, has been extensively studied, knowledge about the rheological behaviour of perovskite is limited. Seismological studies indicate that slabs of subducting oceanic lithosphere are often deflected horizontally at the perovskite-forming depth, and changes in the Earth's shape and gravity field during glacial rebound indicate that viscosity increases in the lower part of the mantle. The rheological properties of the perovskite may be important in governing these phenomena. But (Mg,Fe)SiO3 perovskite is not stable at high temperatures under ambient pressure, and therefore mechanical tests on (Mg,Fe)SiO3 perovskite are difficult. Most rheological studies of perovskite have been performed on analogous materials2,3,4,5,6,7, and the experimental data on (Mg,Fe)SiO3 perovskite are limited to strength measurements at room temperature in a diamond-anvil cell8 and microhardness tests at ambient conditions9. Here we report results of strength and stress relaxation measurements of (Mg0.9Fe0.1)SiO3 perovskite at high pressure and temperature. Compared with the transition-zone mineral ringwoodite10 at the same pressure and temperature, we found that perovskite is weaker at room temperature, which is consistent with a previous diamond-anvil-cell experiment8, but that perovskite is stronger than ringwoodite at high temperature.

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Figure 1: Differential stress supported by Mg0.9Fe0.1SiO3 perovskite and Mg2SiO4 spinel as a function of time at several constant temperatures under 20-GPa confining pressure.
Figure 2: Change in the relative intensities of the (020) and (200) diffraction peaks of Mg0.9Fe0.1SiO3 perovskite owing to compression.


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This work was carried out at the X17B beamline of the National Synchrotron Light Source. We thank Z. Zhang, J. B. Hastings and D. P. Siddons for technical support at the beamline, and J. Zhang for help in sample preparation. This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Jiuhua Chen.

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Chen, J., Weidner, D. & Vaughan, M. The strength of Mg0.9Fe0.1SiO3 perovskite at high pressure and temperature. Nature 419, 824–826 (2002).

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