Lightning Strike Fusion: Extreme Reduction and Metal-Silicate Liquid Immiscibility

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Science  10 Oct 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4773, pp. 189-193
DOI: 10.1126/science.234.4773.189


A glassy fulgurite, formed recently on a morainal ridge in southeastern Michigan, contains micrometer- to centimeter-sized metallic globules rich in native silicon, which unmixed from a silica-rich liquid. The unusual character of these globules and their potential for elucidating conditions of fulgurite formation prompted further study. Thermodynamic calculations indicate that temperatures in excess of 2000 K and reducing conditions approaching those of the SiO2-Si buffer were needed to form the coexisting metallic and silicate liquids. The phases produced are among the most highly reduced naturally occurring materials known. Some occurrences of other highly reduced minerals may also be due to lightning strike reduction. Extreme reduction and volatilization may also occur during high-temperature events such as lightning strikes in presolar nebulae and impacts of extraterrestrial bodies. As a result of scavenging of platinum-group elements by highly reduced metallic liquids, geochemical anomalies associated with the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary may have a significant terrestrial component even if produced through bolide impact.

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