Shock Effects in Certain Rock-Forming Minerals

Science  14 Apr 1967:
Vol. 156, Issue 3772, pp. 192-202
DOI: 10.1126/science.156.3772.192


Shock effects in quartz, plagioclase, biotite, amphibole, and some accessory minerals have been observed in rocks subjected to various degrees of meta morphism by meteoritic impact. The shock features described are unique; they are never observed in rocks from normal geologic environments. Such features are described:

1) Multiple sets of closely spaced planar microstructures occur in quartz, plagioclase, and other rock-forming minerals. Those characteristic of shock consist of alternating platelets, with a range of reduced mean index of re fraction and birefringence; they con sist of platelets that have been partially or completely transformed to an amor phous phase.

2) Quartz and plagioclase are selec tively and completely transformed to silica glass and plagioclase glass in the solid state, whereas the associated mafic minerals remained crystalline. There is no reaction between adjacent minerals.

3) High-pressure polymorphs occur, such as coesite or stishovite. Coesite oc Curs exclusively within silica glass; it has not been observed as a reaction or breakdown product.

4) Nickel-iron spherules occur in the fused glass or impactites.

5) The occurrence of droplets of ilmenite, rutile, pseudobrookite, and baddaleyite in impactites indicates a temperature of formation exceeding 150°C.

6) Dense glass occurs, similar in composition to bulk rock, in which iron oxide, such as fine particles of mag netite, is completely dissolved.

All these features are characteristic of a process involving the rapid rise and fall of extremiiely high pressures and temperatures. Minerals and mineral as semblages experiencing such high strain rates and sudden changes of pressures and temperatures react and change in dependently to the bulk chemical com position, under nonequilibrium condi tions.

Many aspects of shock features re quire careful study. Kink bands in biotite and deformation lamellae in quartz occur in tectonically deformed rocks. These features should be studied with great care in order to determine whether reduction in mean index of refraction and total birefringence along the planar structures have resulted from vitrification or phase transition; their presence is additional evidence in favor of a shock mechanism.

Vitreous phases or glasses formed by shock also have many unique prop erties; they have not been studied by such methods as thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance, low-angle x ray diffraction, or infrared spectroscopy. Shock-fused glass of high density needs to be studied in detail in carefully con trolled laboratory conditions.

Experimental shock-wave studies of the equation-of-state of single minerals and mineral assemblages, under care fully controlled conditions, must pre cede estimates of peak pressures and peak and residual temperatures of shocked natural mineral assemblages. Detailed petrographic and mineralogic studies, however, have provided useful and definitive criteria for characteriza tion of impact events. Such data should be of paramount importance in the study of samples brought back from Moon.