Deformation-induced trace element redistribution in zircon revealed using atom probe tomography

Sandra Piazolo*, Alexandre La Fontaine, Patrick Trimby, Simon Harley, Limei Yang, Richard Armstrong, Julie M. Cairney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Trace elements diffuse negligible distances through the pristine crystal lattice in minerals: this is a fundamental assumption when using them to decipher geological processes. For example, the reliable use of the mineral zircon (ZrSiO4) as a U-Th-Pb geochronometer and trace element monitor requires minimal radiogenic isotope and trace element mobility. Here, using atom probe tomography, we document the effects of crystal-plastic deformation on atomic-scale elemental distributions in zircon revealing sub-micrometre-scale mechanisms of trace element mobility. Dislocations that move through the lattice accumulate U and other trace elements. Pipe diffusion along dislocation arrays connected to a chemical or structural sink results in continuous removal of selected elements (for example, Pb), even after deformation has ceased. However, in disconnected dislocations, trace elements remain locked. Our findings have important implications for the use of zircon as a geochronometer, and highlight the importance of deformation on trace element redistribution in minerals and engineering materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10490
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2016


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