Frictional properties of olivine at high temperature with applications to the strength and dynamics of the oceanic lithosphere

D. S.H. King, C. Marone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Faulting and brittle deformation of mantle rocks occurs in many tectonic settings such as oceanic transform faults, oceanic detachment faults, subduction zones, and continental rifts. However, few data exist that directly explore the frictional properties of peridotite rocks. Improved constraints on the brittle deformation of peridotite is important for a more complete understanding of the rheological properties of the lithosphere. Furthermore, our comparatively detailed understanding of plastic deformation in olivine allows us to explore the possible role of thermally activated intracrystalline deformation mechanisms in macroscopically brittle processes. It has been hypothesized, and some experimental data indicate, that plastic yielding by dislocation glide (low temperature plasticity) determines the direct effect in the rate and state frictional constitutive formulation. Plastic flow may also have important implications for the blunting or necking at asperity contacts that influences the time and/or displacement dependent friction evolution effect and frictional healing. We present results from saw cut experiments on fine grained synthetic olivine fault gouge conducted in a gas-medium deformation apparatus in the temperature range of 400-1000C with 100 MPa confining pressure. We conducted velocity stepping tests to explore the rate and temperature dependence of sliding stability. We also conducted slide-hold-slide experiments to investigate the time and temperature dependence of fault zone restrengthening (frictional healing). The mechanical data and microstructural observations allow us to explore the role of thermally activated processes in frictional sliding. The data indicate systematic temperature dependenceof rate and state variables that can be attributed to plastic yielding at grain to grain contacts. We explore the implications of such temperature dependent behavior for controlling the base of the seismogenic zone in the oceanic lithosphere, and we seek insight into possible mechanistic models for the interactions between fracture and flow that could lead to improved constraints on the strength of the lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB12203
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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