New constraints on upper mantle creep mechanism inferred from silicon grain-boundary diffusion rates

Hongzhan Fei, Sanae Koizumi, Naoya Sakamoto, Minako Hashiguchi, Hisayoshi Yurimoto, Katharina Marquardt, Nobuyoshi Miyajima, Daisuke Yamazaki, Tomoo Katsura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The creep in the Earth's interior is dominated either by diffusion creep which causes Newtonian mantle flow, or by dislocation creep which results in non-Newtonian mantle flow. Although previous deformation studies on olivine claimed a transition from dislocation creep to diffusion creep with depth in the upper mantle, they might misunderstand the creep rates due to experimental difficulties. Since creep in olivine is controlled by silicon diffusion, we measured the silicon grain-boundary diffusion coefficient in well-sintered iron-free olivine aggregates as a function of temperature, pressure, and water content, showing activation energy, activation volume, and water content exponent of 220±30 kJ/mol, 4.0±0.7 cm3/mol, and 0.26±0.07, respectively. Our results based on Si diffusion in forsterite predict that diffusion creep dominates at low pressures and low temperatures, whereas dislocation creep dominates under high pressure and high temperature conditions. Water has negligible effects on both diffusion and dislocation creep. There is a transition from diffusion creep in the shallow upper mantle to dislocation creep in deeper regions. This explains the seismic anisotropy increases at the Gutenberg discontinuity beneath oceans and at the mid-lithosphere discontinuity beneath continents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-359
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Rheology
  • Silicon grain-boundary diffusion
  • Upper mantle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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