First evaluation of stiff-in-soft host–inclusion systems

We all have been habit to work and think about inclusions being preserved by their very stiff host. But have you ever wondered what would happen when a stiff inclusion has been entrapped into a much softer host?

To answer this question Joseph Gonzalez and co-workers have been working with natural and synthetic soft quartz host containing stiff zircon inclusions. This is a very common and yet extremely challenging scenario!

The interpretation of their results in terms of inclusion pressures is complicated due to the rheology of quartz and its α–β phase transition but at the same time the data in P–T space reveal three processes that affect the strains and stresses preserved in synthesized zircon inclusions hosted in quartz:

  1. plastic resetting of the Pinc of zircon in α-quartz at high temperatures after entrapment
  2. large tensile strain states of zircon inclusions in quartz may lead to partial or complete relaxation of the Pinc
  3. inclusions entrapped in β-quartz mechanically reset at the α–β phase transition.

This study represent one of the first tentative of understanding the rheology of host inclusion pairs beyond the limits of classic elasticity.

Schematic diagrams of the stress state of an inclusion entrapped in a host mineral at various PT conditions. A and B show the behavior of a soft inclusion in a stiff host mineral such as a quartz inclusion in a garnet host (inset image modified from Gonzalez et al. 2019), and C and D show the behavior of a stiff inclusion in a soft host such as a zircon inclusion in a quartz host (more details at CMP)

If you want to know more read the full manuscript published in Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology