Mineral Surface Rearrangement at High Temperatures: Implications for Extraterrestrial Mineral Grain Reactivity

Helen E. King, Oliver Plümper, Christine V. Putnis, Hugh St C. O'Neill, Stephan Klemme, Andrew Putnis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Mineral surfaces play a critical role in the solar nebula as a catalytic surface for chemical reactions and potentially acted as a source of water during Earth's accretion by the adsorption of water molecules to the surface of interplanetary dust particles. However, nothing is known about how mineral surfaces respond to short-lived thermal fluctuations that are below the melting temperature of the mineral. Here we show that mineral surfaces react and rearrange within minutes to changes in their local environment despite being far below their melting temperature. Polished surfaces of the rock and planetary dust-forming silicate mineral olivine ((Mg,Fe)2SiO4) show significant surface reorganization textures upon rapid heating resulting in surface features up to 40 nm in height observed after annealing at 1200 °C. Thus, high-temperature fluctuations should provide new and highly reactive sites for chemical reactions on nebula mineral particles. Our results also may help to explain discrepancies between short and long diffusion profiles in experiments where diffusion length scales are of the order of 100 nm or less.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-121
Number of pages9
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • atomic force microscopy AFM
  • experiments
  • gas adsorption
  • Mineral surface reconstruction
  • solar nebula

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