Heterogeneous nucleation as the predominant mode of crystallization in natural magmas: numerical model and implications for crystal–melt interaction

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Crystallization of natural magmas is inherently a disequilibrium process, which involves nucleation and growth kinetics, melt–crystal mechanical interactions and subsolidus modifications, which are all recorded in the resulting rock texture. We use a new high-resolution three-dimensional numerical model to address the significance and consequences of homogeneous versus heterogeneous crystal nucleation in silicate magmas. With increasing amount of heterogeneous nuclei during crystallization, initially equigranular textures evolve to porphyritic, bimodal and spherulitic types. The corresponding crystal size distributions (CSDs) become concave-up curved, the clustering index progressively decreases, and the grain contact relationships record increased clustering. Concave-up curved CSDs previously interpreted as resulting from multistage crystallization, mixing of crystal populations, grain agglomeration, or size-dependent growth are now predicted, consistently with other size, spatial and clustering parameters, to form by heterogeneous crystal nucleation. Correlation relationships between various textural parameters and the fraction of heterogeneous nuclei are calibrated and used on representative volcanic and plutonic rocks, including cumulate rocks, to deduce the fraction of heterogeneous nuclei. The results indicate that ~60 to ~99 % of all nuclei are heterogeneous. For plutonic and cumulate rocks, the estimate of the heterogeneous nuclei fraction based on the clustering index is significantly lower than other estimates. Such discrepancies, in general, point to the occurrence of other processes, and here, the results imply that crystal-mush compaction and interstitial melt extraction were involved during the magma solidification. Formation of crystals in clusters, implicit for heterogeneous nucleation, implies that greater efficiency of crystal–melt separation is expected in these situations.

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This study was financially supported by the Charles University Research Program P44 and the Czech Science Foundation Project Nr. 210/12/0986. We thank Hana Ditterová for providing us with the quantitative textural data for the sample CS-12. We greatly appreciate detailed and constructive reviews by George Bergantz, Sarah Gelman, Julia Hammer, Jillian Schleicher and an anonymous reviewer and editorial handling by Mark Ghiorso.

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Correspondence to Václav Špillar.

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Communicated by Mark S Ghiorso.

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Špillar, V., Dolejš, D. Heterogeneous nucleation as the predominant mode of crystallization in natural magmas: numerical model and implications for crystal–melt interaction. Contrib Mineral Petrol 169, 4 (2015).

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  • Heterogeneous nucleation
  • CSD
  • Crystal cluster
  • Crystallization
  • Quantitative texture measurement