Incommensurate Phase Transitions in Quartz and Berlinite

  • G. Dolino
Part of the Advances in Physical Geochemistry book series (PHYSICAL GEOCHE, volume 7)


Silicon dioxide (SiO2) constitutes one of the most abundant minerals of the earth’s crust and is well known for its extensive polymorphism (see reviews by Frondel, 1962; Sosman, 1965). Under usual conditions, the stable phase is crystalline quartz; several other phases exist at high temperature and high pressure. The structures of these phases differ in the way the SiO4 tetrahedra are connected, the SiO4 tetrahedra being the building blocks of all SiO2 polymorphs except stishovite. The transformation from one of these phases to another is known as a reconstructive transformation, as it produces large changes in the topology of the structure. The low-pressure phases (quartz, cristobalite, tridymite) display another kind of transition that produces only small changes of atomic positions, without breaking any atomic bonds. Quartz at 846 K shows such a transition from the low-temperature α phase to the high-temperature β phase. Since its discovery by Le Chatelier (1889), this transition has been the subject of so many investigations that one would expect its properties to be well known. It is, therefore, quite surprising to find that some uncertainties remain even about basic properties such as the thermodynamic equation of state (Richet et al. 1982; Hosieni et al. 1985). Moreover, qualitative features, such as the existence of discontinuities at the transition, have long been controversial. These uncertainties are surprising because good-quality quartz samples (either natural or synthetic) are easily available and give reproducible results. It appears that the problems concerning the α-β transition result from the poor accuracy of the temperature control of most of the previous experiments.


Soft Mode Thermal Hysteresis Landau Theory Inelastic Neutron Scattering Incommensurate Phase 
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