The magnetic properties of natural and synthetic (Fex, Mg1 - x)2 SiO4 olivines

France Belley, Eric C. Ferré, Fátima Martín-Hernández, Michael J. Jackson, M. Darby Dyar, Elizabeth J. Catlos

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Olivine is an abundant orthosilicate in the solar system, in the upper mantle of rocky planets, in meteorites and interstellar dust. The magnetic properties of (Fex, Mg1 - x)2 SiO4 olivines result from the silicate matrix and its iron-rich inclusions and have not always been separated in previous studies. The properties of the matrix are important to understand mantle rocks' anisotropy and their deformation, both in xenoliths and peridotite massifs, while the inclusions are potential paleomagnetic and paleointensity recorders. In this study, we performed new measurements on 7 natural and 23 synthetic ferromagnesian olivines, covering the whole range from forsterite Mg2SiO4 (Fo100) to fayalite Fe2SiO4 (Fo0) and from 4 to 310 K. Many of our specimens contain ferromagnetic inclusions (magnetite or maghemite), with magnetic sizes ranging from superparamagnetic to multidomain. The respective contributions of the matrix and the inclusions are systematically isolated using magnetic fields large enough to saturate the ferromagnetic component due to inclusions. At room temperature, as predicted by molecular field theory, while the forsterite end-member is diamagnetic (XHF = - 6.8 10- 10 m3/kg) and the fayalite end-member is paramagnetic (XHF = 1.10 10- 6 m3/kg), their magnetic properties do not vary linearly with iron content. These olivines also exhibit one or two magnetic transitions at composition-dependent low temperatures. At the Néel temperature (TN), olivines exhibit a first magnetic transition from paramagnetic to antiferromagnetic behavior, indicated by negative paramagnetic Curie temperatures (θ). A second transition (Tt) occurs at lower temperatures for specimens with x ≥ 0.1, and could be attributed to a change from collinear to canted antiferromagnetic state. In the range Fo83-Fo93, corresponding to the Earth's upper mantle, the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) is directionally consistent, with the AMS principal axes K1, K2 and K3 respectively corresponding to the a, c and b crystallographic axes. At room temperature, the degree of anisotropy increases from 1.028 to 1.302 with decreasing iron content. The presence of small and submicroscopic iron-rich inclusions significantly complicates the investigation of olivine physical properties but also constitutes opportunities to record paleomagnetic field intensities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-526
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 15 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our sincere thanks go to David Kolhstedt, Olwyn N. Menzies and Harald Mütschke for providing specimens. We are grateful to N. Ali, and I. Dubenko (SIUC, Physics) for some of the MPMS measurements. Two anonymous reviewers and the editor Lars Stixrude greatly improved the quality of this work and are gratefully acknowledged. This research was supported by an IRM Visiting Fellowship to France Belley and by NSF grant EAR0521558 — Major Research Instrumentation.


  • anisotropy
  • inclusion
  • magnetic remanence
  • magnetic susceptibility
  • olivine


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