Microstructural Controls on the Crystallization and Exhumation of Metamorphic Rocks

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Virginia Tech

Microstructural data on the orientation and distribution of minerals can be utilized to better understand the processes controlling mineral crystallization during metamorphism and the extent to which equilibrium versus kinetic factors control the evolution of metamorphic rocks. Four studies in this dissertation address this, finding that: i) garnet crystals crystallize via epitaxial nucleation in which garnet crystallizes by templating on the crystal structure of muscovite; ii) the distribution of grain boundary void space at quartz-quartz and garnet-quartz grain boundaries is a function of the orientation of quartz crystals on either side of the grain boundary. There are more voids, and in some cases larger voids, at grain boundaries in which the a-axis of a neighboring quartz grain is perpendicular to the grain boundary than any other orientation; iii) the chemical potentials of garnet-forming components evolve differently in samples in which garnet growth either significantly or minimally overstepped equilibrium garnet-forming reactions; iv) the southwestern Meguma Terrane, Nova Scotia, experienced peak metamorphic conditions of ~630ºC and 4.0 kbar, likely resulting from regional metamorphism during the Neoacadian orogeny. A case study on the mechanisms controlling garnet crystallization in one Nova Scotian sample reveals that the rate limiting step of garnet crystallization was probably the diffusional transport of Al through the intergranular matrix. Taken together, this work has implications for understanding: i) the properties of grain boundaries in metamorphic rocks and ii) the extent to which equilibrium versus kinetic factors impact metamorphic petrogenesis.

metamorphism, metamorphic microstructure, garnet, epitaxial nucleation, grain boundaries