The influence of second phases on the microstructural evolution and the mechanical properties of geological materials.

  • Joseph Tant

Student thesis: Phd


Polycrystalline geological materials are not normally single phase materials and commonly contain second phases which are known to influence the grain size and mechanical properties of bulk material. Despite the well documented significance of second phases, there are relatively few detailed systematic experimental studies of the effect of second phases on isostatic high temperature grain growth in geological materials. Grain growth is a process that is fundamental to our understanding of how rocks behave in the lower crust / upper mantle where grain size is considered to play an important role in the localization of deformation in addition to determining the strength of materials at these pressure and temperature conditions. Furthermore, the effect that the spatial distribution and grain size of the second phases have on the mechanical properties of rocks is generally acknowledged, but it is not well constrained. Spatial variation is particularly significant in geological systems where a strength contrast exists between phases. With these two things in mind, a two-part study is presented in which the influence of a pore second phase on the microstructural evolution of halite during grain growth (Part I), and the influence of a calcite second phase on the mechanical behaviour of two phase calcite + halite aggregates (Part II), is investigated.In Part I, high temperature (330 °-600 °C), high confining pressure (200 MPa) isostatic grain growth experiments were carried out on 38-125 micro metre reagent grade halite (99.5%+ NaCl) powder over durations of 10 secs up to 108 days. After hot-pressing, the halite displays a foam texture. Some porosity remained along the grain boundaries, the size and distribution of which appears to impact significantly on the resulting grain size, growth mechanism and kinetics of halite grain growth.Halite grain growth was found to be well described by the normal grain growth equation: d^(1/n)-d0^(1/n)=k0(t-t0)exp(-H/RT) where t is the duration of the growth period, t0 is the time at which normal growth begins, d is the grain size, d0 is the grain size at t0, k0 is a constant, H is the activation enthalpy for the growth controlling process, R is the universal gas constant,T is temperature and n is a growth constant. At 330 °-511 °C, the data is best described by n = 0.25 indicating growth controlled by surface diffusion around pores that lie on the grain boundaries. An activation enthalpy of 122±34 kJ/mol was obtained using the grain size data from these data sets. At 600 °C the data is best described by n = 0.5, suggesting that a transition to interface controlled growth takes place between 511 °C and 600 °C. To investigate the impact of porosity, the Zener parameter (Z = pore size/pore volume fraction) was determined for individual grains in 10 samples. A general trend of increasing with increasing halite grain size is observed, indicating pore elimination keeps pace with pore accumulation in the growing grains. In some samples, the largest grains display a decrease in the Zener parameter corresponding with an increase in pore volume fraction. These grains are interpreted as having experienced a short-lived, abnormal growth phase shortly after t0 during which pore accumulation outpaced pore elimination. A model of pore controlled grain growth is proposed with a view to explaining these observations.In Part II, calcite + halite aggregates of constant volume fraction (0.60 calcite : 0.40 halite) and varying calcite clast size (6 micro metre 361 micro metre) were axially deformed to
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStephen Covey-Crump (Supervisor)


  • Hall-Petch
  • Contiguity
  • Mean free path
  • Load partitioning
  • Zener
  • Porosity
  • Normal grain growth
  • Halite
  • Calcite
  • Abnormal grain growth
  • Neutron diffraction
  • Grain growth

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