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Weak cubic CaSiO3 perovskite in the Earth’s mantle

Abstract

Cubic CaSiO3 perovskite is a major phase in subducted oceanic crust, where it forms at a depth of about 550 kilometres from majoritic garnet1,2,28. However, its rheological properties at temperatures and pressures typical of the lower mantle are poorly known. Here we measured the plastic strength of cubic CaSiO3 perovskite at pressure and temperature conditions typical for a subducting slab up to a depth of about 1,200 kilometres. In contrast to tetragonal CaSiO3, previously investigated at room temperature3,4, we find that cubic CaSiO3 perovskite is a comparably weak phase at the temperatures of the lower mantle. We find that its strength and viscosity are substantially lower than that of bridgmanite and ferropericlase, possibly making cubic CaSiO3 perovskite the weakest lower-mantle phase. Our findings suggest that cubic CaSiO3 perovskite governs the dynamics of subducting slabs. Weak CaSiO3 perovskite further provides a mechanism to separate subducted oceanic crust from the underlying mantle. Depending on the depth of the separation, basaltic crust could accumulate at the boundary between the upper and lower mantle, where cubic CaSiO3 perovskite may contribute to the seismically observed regions of low shear-wave velocities in the uppermost lower mantle5,6, or sink to the core–mantle boundary and explain the seismic anomalies associated with large low-shear-velocity provinces beneath Africa and the Pacific7,8,9.

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Fig. 1: Deviatoric stress measured in cubic CaSiO3 perovskite at lower-mantle pressures and T = 1,150 ± 50 K.
Fig. 2: Strength of major lower-mantle phases at high pressures.
Fig. 3: Depth-dependent viscosity contrast between major lower-mantle phases at approximately 1,150 K.

Data availability

Raw data were generated at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) and are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.17287361. All derived data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and the Extended Data. Source data for Figs. 2, 3 and Extended Data Fig. 2 are provided with the paper. 

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge technical assistance by A. Ehnes and I. Schwark. We thank A. R. Thomson for providing a table with the high-temperature shear modulus of CaSiO3 perovskite. This research was supported through the German Science Foundation (grants MA4534/3-1 and MA4534/4-1) as well the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (ERC grant 864877). H.M. acknowledges support from the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. L..M acknowledges support from the NSF (EAR-1654687) and US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration through the Chicago-DOE Alliance Center (DE- NA0003975).

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H.M., H.-P.L., L.M. and S.S. designed the research. J.I. prepared the experiments. All authors contributed to the synchrotron experiments. J.I. and L.M. analysed the data. H.M. performed the modelling. H.M. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to H. Marquardt.

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Nature thanks Patrick Cordier and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Unrolled diffraction image.

Data were collected at 52.5 GPa and 1,150 ± 50 K (bottom) along with the best-fit model (top). The curvature is a measure of lattice strains and was used to calculate the strength of CaSiO3 perovskite.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Experimentally derived lattice strains of cubic CaSiO3 at a temperature of 1,150 ± 50 K.

The error of the derived lattice strains is similar to the symbol sizes, as shown in the lower right corner.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Texture development observed in experiments.

Texture strength is indicated by the colours. 100 texture increases with pressure throughout the experiment, increasing from about 1.5 mrd to 1.75 mrd, indicating plastic flow.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 4 VPSC modelling of texture development.

The measured experimental texture after sample synthesis was used as starting texture. 20% of plastic strain leads to a texture strength comparable to that measured at 52.2 GPa (see Extended Data Fig. 3).

Extended Data Table 1 Viscosity contrast between CaSiO3 perovskite and bridgmanite (left) or ferropericlase (right)

Source data

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Immoor, J., Miyagi, L., Liermann, HP. et al. Weak cubic CaSiO3 perovskite in the Earth’s mantle. Nature 603, 276–279 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04378-2

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