- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Although the importance of rheological properties in controlling the dynamics and evolution of the whole mantle of Earth is well-recognized, experimental studies of rheological properties and deformation-induced microstructures have mostly been limited to low-pressure conditions. This is mainly a result of technical limitations in conducting quantitative rheological experiments under high-pressure conditions. A combination of factors is changing this situation. Increased resolution of composition and configuration of Earth’s interior has created a greater demand for well-resolved laboratory measurement of the effects of pressure on the behavior of materials. Higher-strength materials have become readily available for containing high-pressure research devices, and new analytical capabilities—in particular very bright synchrotron X-ray sources—are now readily available to high-pressure researchers.
One of the biggest issues in global geodynamics is the style of mantle convection and the nature of chemical differentiation associated with convectional mass transport. Although evidence for deep mantle circulation has recently been found through seismic tomography (e.g., van der Hilst et al. (1997)), complications in convection style have also been noted. They include (1) significant modifications of flow geometry across the mantle transition zone as seen from high resolution tomographic studies (Fukao et al. 1992; Masters et al. 2000; van der Hilst et al. 1991) and (2) complicated patterns of flow in the deep lower mantle (~1500–2500 km), perhaps caused by chemical heterogeneity (Kellogg et al. 1999; van der Hilst and Karason 1999).
These studies indicate that while large-scale circulation involving the whole mantle no doubt occurs, significant deviations from simple flow geometry are also present. Two mineral properties have strong influence on convection: (1) density and (2) viscosity (rheology) contrasts. In the past, the effects of density contrast have been emphasized (Honda et al. 1993; Kellogg et al. 1999; Tackley et al. 1993), and the influence of …