Beryllium in Antarctic Ultrahigh-Temperature Granulite-Facies Rocks and its Role in Partial Melting of the Lower Continental Crust
This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, supports a project to investigate the role of beryllium in lower crustal partial melting events. The formation of granitic liquids by partial melting deep in the Earth's crust is one of the major topics of research in igneous and metamorphic petrology today. One aspect of this sphere of research is the beginning of the process, specifically, the geochemical interaction between melts and source rocks before the melt has left the source area. One example of anatexis in metamorphic rocks affected by conditions found deep in the Earth's crust is pegmatite in the Archean ultrahigh temperature granulite-facies Napier Complex of Enderby Land, East Antarctica. Peak conditions for this granulite-facies metamorphism are estimated to have reached nearly 1100 Degrees Celsius and 11 kilobar, that is, conditions in the Earth's lower crust in Archean time. The proposed research is a study of the Napier Complex pegmatites with an emphasis on the minerals and geochemistry of beryllium. This element, which is estimated to constitute 3 ppm of the Earth's upper crust, is very rarely found in any significant concentrations in metamorphic rocks subjected to conditions of the Earth's lower crust. Structural, geochronological, and mineralogical studies will be carried out to test the hypothesis that the beryllium pegmatites resulted from anatexis of their metapelitic host rocks during the ultrahigh-temperature metamorphic event in the late Archean. Host rocks will be analyzed for major and trace elements. Minerals will be analyzed by the electron microprobe for major constituents including fluorine and by the ion microprobe for lithium, beryllium and boron. The analytical data will be used to determine how beryllium and other trace constituents were extracted from host rocks under ultrahigh-temperature conditions and subsequently concentrated in the granitic melt, eventually to crystallize out in a pegmatite as beryllian sapphirine and khmaralite, minerals not found in pegmatites elsewhere. Mineral compositions and assemblages will be used to determine the evolution and conditions of crystallization and recrystallization of the pegmatites and their host rocks during metamorphic episodes following the ultrahigh-temperature event. Monazite will be analyzed for lead, thorium and uranium to date the ages of these events. Because fluorine is instrumental in mobilizing beryllium, an undergraduate student will study the magnesium fluorphosphate wagnerite in the pegmatites in order to estimate fluorine activity in the melt as part of a senior project. The results of the present project will provide important insights on the melting process in general and on the geochemical behavior of beryllium in particular under the high temperatures and low water activities characteristic of the Earth's lower crust.
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