Single-Crystal Elastic Properties of the Modified Spinel (Beta) Phase of Magnesium Orthosilicate

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Science  18 May 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4650, pp. 749-751
DOI: 10.1126/science.224.4650.749


The single-crystal elastic moduli of the modified spinel structure (beta phase) of magnesium orthosilicate (Mg2SiO4) have been measured by Brillouin spectroscopy under ambient conditions. Single crystals with dimensions up to 500 micrometers were grown at 22 gigapascals and 2000°C over a period of 1 hour. Growth of crystals larger than 100 micrometers was achieved only when the pressure was within 5 percent of the pressure of the phase boundary separating the beta- and gamma-phase stability fields. A comparison of the elastic properties of the modified spinel phase with those of the olivine phase suggests that the 400-kilometer seismic discontinuity in the earth's mantle can be described by a mantle with 40 percent olivine. These results confirm that the 400-kilometer discontinuity can be due to the transition from olivine to modified spinel. The amount of olivine that must be present is less than that in a pyrolite model, although the results do not exclude pyrolite as a possible mantle model.