Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
18 Nov 2014
Research article |  | 18 Nov 2014

Finite lattice distortion patterns in plastically deformed zircon grains

E. Kovaleva, U. Klötzli, G. Habler, and E. Libowitzky

Abstract. This study examines finite deformation patterns of zircon grains from high-temperature natural shear zones. Various zircon-bearing rocks were collected in the Western Tauern Window, eastern Alps, where they were deformed under amphibolite facies conditions, and in the Ivrea–Verbano Zone (IVZ), southern Alps, where deformation is related with granulite-facies metamorphism. Among the sampled rocks are granitic orthogneisses, metalamprophyres and paragneisses, all of which are strongly deformed.

The investigated zircon grains ranging from 10 to 50 μm were studied in situ using a combination of scanning electron microscope (SEM) techniques, backscattered electron (BSE) imaging, forward-scattered electron (FSE) imaging, cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging, and crystallographic orientation mapping by electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), as well as micro-Raman spectroscopy. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) was applied to host phases.

Microstructural analysis of crystal-plastically deformed zircon grains was based on high-resolution EBSD maps. Three general types of finite lattice distortion patterns were detected: type (I) is defined by gradual bending of the zircon lattice with orientation changes of about 0.6–1.8° per micrometer without subgrain boundary formation. Cumulative grain-internal orientation variations range from 7 to 25° within single grains. Type (II) represents local gradual bending of the crystal lattice accompanied by the formation of subgrain boundaries that have concentric semicircular shapes in 2-D sections. Cumulative grain-internal orientation variations range from 15 to 40° within single grains. Type (III) is characterized by formation of subgrains separated by a well-defined subgrain boundary network, where subgrain boundaries show a characteristic angular closed contour. The cumulative orientation variation within a single grain ranges from 3 to 10°. Types (I) and (II) predominate in granulite facies rocks, whereas type (III) is restricted to the amphibolite facies rocks. The difference in distortion patterns is controlled by strain rate and by ratio between dislocation formation and dislocation motion rates, conditioned by the amount of differential stress.

Investigated microstructures demonstrate that misorientation axes are usually parallel to the < 001 > and < 100 > crystallographic directions; dominant slips are < 010 > {001}, < 010 > {100} and < 001 > {010}, whereas in some grains cross-slip takes place. This study demonstrates that activation of energetically preferable slip systems is facilitated if zircon grain is decoupled from the host matrix and/or hosted by a soft phase.

Short summary
Three types of lattice distortion patterns in deformed zircon are detected: (I) gradual bending of the crystal lattice without subgrain boundaries, (II) local gradual bending of the lattice with formation of semicircular subgrain boundaries, and (III) strain-free subgrains separated by subgrain boundaries. The difference is controlled by strain rate and differential stress. Activation of energetically preferable slip systems is facilitated by decoupling from matrix and/or by soft host mineral.