Publications

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2019
Pommier, A, Leinenweber K, Tran T.  2019.  Mercury's thermal evolution controlled by an insulating liquid outermost core? Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 517:125-134.   10.1016/j.epsl.2019.04.022   AbstractWebsite

The weak intrinsic magnetic field of Mercury is intimately tied to the structure and cooling history of its metallic core. Recent constraints about the planet's internal structure suggest the presence of a FeS layer overlying a silicon-bearing core. We performed 4-electrode resistivity experiments on core analogues up to 10 GPa and over wide temperature ranges in order to investigate the insulating properties of core materials. Our results show that the FeS layer is liquid and insulating, and that the electrical resistivity of a miscible Fe-Si(-S) core is comparable to the one of an immiscible Fe-S, Fe-Si core. The difference in electrical resistivity between the FeS-rich layer and the underlying Fe-Si(-S) core is at least 1 log unit at pressure and temperature conditions relevant to Mercury's interior. Estimates of the lower bound of thermal conductivity for FeS and Fe-Si(-S) materials are calculated using the Wiedemann-Franz law. A thick (>40 km) FeS-rich shell is expected to maintain high temperatures across the core, and if temperature in this layer departs from an adiabat, then this might affect the core cooling rate. The presence of a liquid and insulating shell is not inconsistent with a thermally stratified core in Mercury and is likely to impact the generation and sustainability of a magnetic field. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2015
Pommier, A, Leinenweber K, Tasaka M.  2015.  Experimental investigation of the electrical behavior of olivine during partial melting under pressure and application to the lunar mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 425:242-255.   10.1016/j.epsl.2015.05.052   AbstractWebsite

Electrical conductivity measurements were performed during melting experiments of olivine compacts (dry and hydrous Fo(77) and Fo(90)) at 4 and 6 GPa in order to investigate melt transport properties and quantify the effect of partial melting on electrical properties. Experiments were performed in the multi-anvil apparatus and electrical measurements were conducted using the impedance spectroscopy technique with the two-electrode method. Changes in impedance spectra were used to identify the transition from an electrical response controlled by the solid matrix to an electrical response controlled by the melt phase. This transition occurs slightly above the solidus temperature and lasts until T-solidus + 75 degrees C (+/- 25). At higher temperature, a significant increase in conductivity (corresponding to an increase in conductivity values by a factor ranging from similar to 30 to 100) is observed, consistent with the transition from a tube-dominated network to a structure in which melt films and pools become prominent features. This increase in conductivity corresponds to an abrupt jump for all dry samples and to a smoother increase for the hydrous sample. It is followed by a plateau at higher temperature, suggesting that the electrical response of the investigated samples lacks sensitivity to temperature at an advanced stage of partial melting. Electron microprobe analyses on quenched products indicated an increase in Mg# (molar Mg/(Mg + Fe)) of olivine during experiments (similar to 77-93 in the quenched samples with an initial Fo(77) composition and similar to 92-97 in the quenched samples with an initial Fo(90) composition) due to the partitioning of iron to the melt phase. Assuming a respective melt fraction of 0.10 and 0.20 before and after the phase of significant increase in conductivity, in agreement with previous electrical and permeability studies, our results can be reproduced satisfactorily by two-phase electrical models (the Hashin and Shtrikman bounds and the modified brick layer model), and provide a melt conductivity value of 78 (+/- 8) S/m for all Fo(77) samples and 45 (+/- 5) S/m for the Fo(90) sample. Comparison of our results with electromagnetic sounding data of the deep interior of the Moon supports the hypothesis of the presence of interconnected melt at the base of the lunar mantle. Our results underline that electrical conductivity can be used to investigate in situ melt nucleation and migration in the interior of terrestrial planets. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Pommier, A, Leinenweber K, Kohlstedt DL, Qi C, Garnero EJ, Mackwell SJ, Tyburczy JA.  2015.  Experimental constraints on the electrical anisotropy of the lithosphere-asthenosphere system. Nature. 522:202-+.   10.1038/nature14502   AbstractWebsite

The relative motion of lithospheric plates and underlying mantle produces localized deformation near the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary(1). The transition from rheologically stronger lithosphere to weaker asthenosphere may result from a small amount of melt or water in the asthenosphere, reducing viscosity(1-3). Either possibility may explain the seismic and electrical anomalies that extend to a depth of about 200 kilometres(4,5). However, the effect of melt on the physical properties of deformed materials at upper-mantle conditions remains poorly constrained(6). Here we present electrical anisotropy measurements at high temperatures and quasi-hydrostatic pressures of about three gigapascals on previously deformed olivine aggregates and sheared partially molten rocks. For all samples, electrical conductivity is highest when parallel to the direction of prior deformation. The conductivity of highly sheared olivine samples is ten times greater in the shear direction than for undeformed samples. At temperatures above 900 degrees Celsius, a deformed solid matrix with nearly isotropic melt distribution has an electrical anisotropy factor less than five. To obtain higher electrical anisotropy (up to a factor of 100), we propose an experimentally based model in which layers of sheared olivine are alternated with layers of sheared olivine plus MORB or of pure melt. Conductivities are up to 100 times greater in the shear direction than when perpendicular to the shear direction and reproduce stress-driven alignment of the melt. Our experimental results and the model reproduce mantle conductivity-depth profiles for melt-bearing geological contexts. The field data are best fitted by an electrically anisotropic asthenosphere overlain by an isotropic, high-conductivity lower most lithosphere. The high conductivity could arise from partial melting associated with localized deformation resulting from differential plate velocities relative to the mantle, with subsequent upward melt percolation from the asthenosphere.