Understanding DRM acquisition of plates and spheres: A first comparative experimental approach

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Since King presented the 'plates and spheres' model in an attempt to investigate the origin of the inclination error in sediments, no one to date has conducted specific experiments designed to separate the individual contribution of platy and spherical particles to depositional remanent magnetizations (DRMs). It is commonly accepted that it is the flattening of plates, rather than the rolling of spheres that is the main source of inclination error in sediments. Recently, however, Bilardello et al. have shown that spheres alone may lead to significant amounts of shallowing. A comparison of experiments run in parallel using synthetic platy and spherical particles is presented. Experiments of the duration of 24 hr were run in 100 μT field intensity (μ0H) and varying field inclinations (IF) from vertical to horizontal. A systematic dependence of the magnetization on field inclination is apparent. Results indicate that magnetic moment measurements are more repeatable for spherical particles than for plates, yielding smaller uncertainties. Inclination measurements, however, are more repeatable for platy particles, with amore linear relationship of inclination error to applied field inclination. Moreover, plates yield smaller inclination error than spheres. A clear field inclination dependency of the inclination error also exists, with the error decreasing through field inclinations of 30°, 60° and 90°. A continuous acquisition experiment involving plates was also run up to 10 d of deposition in μ0H = 100 μT and IF = 60°. The acquisition curves for moment, inclination and thickness of depositing sediment are compared to the mean curves measured for spheres by Bilardello et al. under the same field conditions. No unequivocal evidence of compaction of the platy particles is observed, while the inclination error is acquired virtually instantaneously for all particles. These preliminary results contradict the widespread understanding that inclination shallowing is more prominent for platy particles (e.g. hematite) than it is for more spherical particles (e.g. magnetite). It is true that larger amounts of shallowing have been commonly observed in natural hematite-bearing rocks, but the overall ranges of shallowing are also larger. The particles used in these experiments may not be a reliable proxy for natural crystals and one must exercise caution when extrapolating to the natural scenarios; however, the results provide insight into the behaviour of differently shaped particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-158
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Palaeointensity
  • Palaeomagnetism applied to geologic processes
  • Rock and mineral magnetism


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