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Geochem Trans. 2006 Dec 20;7:10.

Enhanced diffusion of uranium and thorium linked to crystal plasticity in zircon.

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  • 1Department of Applied Geology, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth WA 6845, Australia. n.timms@curtin.edu.au

Abstract

The effects of crystal-plasticity on the U-Th-Pb system in zircon is studied by quantitative microstructural and microchemical analysis of a large zircon grain collected from pyroxenite of the Lewisian Complex, Scotland. Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) mapping reveals a c.18 degree variation in crystallographic orientation that comprises both a gradual change in orientation and a series of discrete low-angle (<4 degrees) boundaries. These microstructural data are consistent with crystal-plastic deformation of zircon associated with the formation and migration of dislocations. A heterogeneous pattern of dark cathodoluminescence, with the darkest domains coinciding with low-angle boundaries, mimics the deformation microstructure identified by EBSD. Geochemical data collected using the Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP) shows a positive correlation between concentrations of the elements U, Th and Pb (ranging from 20-60 ppm, 30-110 ppm, and 14-36 ppm, respectively) and Th/U ratio (1.13-1.8) with the deformation microstructure. The highest measured concentrations and Th/U coincide with low-angle boundaries. This enrichment is interpreted to reflect enhanced bulk diffusion of U and Th due to the formation and migration of high-diffusivity dislocations. 207Pb/206Pb ages for individual analyses show no significant variation across the grain, and define a concordant, combined mean age of 2451 +/- 14 Ma. This indicates that the grain was deformed shortly after initial crystallization, most probably during retrograde Inverian metamorphism at amphibolite facies conditions. The elevated Th over U and consistent 207Pb/206Pb ages indicates that deformation most likely occurred in the presence of a late-stage magmatic fluid that drove an increase in the Th/U during deformation. The relative enrichment of Th over U implies that Th/U ratio may not always be a robust indicator of crystallization environment. This study provides the first evidence of deformation-related modification of the U-Th system in zircon and has fundamental implications for the application and interpretation of zircon trace element data.

PMID:
17181855
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC1769485
Free PMC Article
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