Chromite in komatiites: 3D morphologies with implications for crystallization mechanisms

B. Godel, S.J. Barnes, D. Gürer, P. Austin, Marco Fiorentini

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    High-resolution X-ray computed tomography has been carried out on a suite of komatiite samples representing a range of volcanic facies, chromite contents and degrees of alteration and metamorphism, to reveal the wide range of sizes, shapes and degrees of clustering that chromite grains display as a function of cooling history. Dendrites are spectacularly skeletal chromite grains formed during very rapid crystallization of supercooled melt in spinifex zones close to flow tops. At slower cooling rates in the interiors of thick flows, chromite forms predominantly euhedral grains. Large clusters (up to a dozen of grains) are characteristic of liquidus chromite, whereas fine dustings of mostly individual ~20-μm grains form by in situ crystallization from trapped intercumulus liquid. Chromite in coarse-grained olivine cumulates from komatiitic dunite bodies occurs in two forms: as clusters or chains of euhedral crystals, developing into "chicken-wire" texture where chromite is present in supra-cotectic proportions; and as strongly dendritic, semi-poikilitic grains. These dendritic grains are likely to have formed by rapid crescumulate growth from magma that was close to its liquidus temperature but supersaturated with chromite. In some cases, this process seems to have been favoured by nucleation of chromite on the margins of sulphide liquid blebs. This texture is a good evidence for the predominantly cumulus origin of oikocrysts and in situ origin of heteradcumulate textures. Our 3D textural analysis confirms that the morphology of chromite crystals is a distinctive indicator of crystallization environment even in highly altered rocks. © 2012 Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)173-189
    JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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