Diffusion-controlled crack propagation in alkali feldspar

E. Petrishcheva, M Rieder, Jozef Predan, Franz-Dieter Fischer, Gerald Giester, Rainer Abart

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The chemically driven propagation of interacting parallel cracks in monoclinic alkali feldspar was studied experimentally. Single crystals of potassium-rich gem-quality sanidine were shifted towards more sodium-rich compositions by cation exchange with a NaCl–KCl salt melt at a temperature of 850∘C and close to ambient pressure. Initially, a zone with elevated sodium content formed at the crystal surfaces due to the simultaneous in-diffusion of sodium and out-diffusion of potassium, where the rate of cation exchange was controlled by sodium–potassium interdiffusion within the feldspar. A chemical shift of potassium-rich alkali feldspar towards more sodium-rich compositions produces highly anisotropic contraction of the crystal lattice. This induced a tensile stress state in the sodium-rich surface layer of the crystals, which triggered the formation of a system of nearly equi-spaced parallel cracks oriented approximately perpendicular to the direction of maximum shortening. Crack propagation following their nucleation was driven by cation exchange occurring along the crack flanks and was controlled by the intimate coupling of the diffusion-mediated build-up of a tensile stress state around the crack tips and stress release by successive crack propagation. The critical energy release rate of fracturing was determined as 1.8–2.2 Jm-2 from evaluation of the near-tip J-integral. The mechanism of diffusion-controlled crack propagation is discussed in the context of high-temperature feldspar alteration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalPhysics and Chemistry of Minerals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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