Although the compositional unmixing of cubic-structured iron oxides has profound effects on the magnetic properties of rocks that contain them, a basic understanding of the kinetics and thermodynamics of this process has not been achieved in experimental studies due to sluggish reaction rates in binary oxide phases. Exploiting the fact that many natural Fe-oxides contain multiple additional cations, including Ti, Mg and Al, we perform novel “forward” laboratory experiments in which cubic-cubic phase exsolution proceeds from initially homogeneous multicomponent oxides. A variety of Fe-Ti-Mg-Al cubic iron oxides were nucleated and grown in synthetic, multicomponent basalt under different ƒO2 environments, and annealed at temperatures ranging from 590–790°C for up to 88 days. Fine-scale lamellar intergrowths of Fe-Ti-Al-Mg oxides, interpreted to represent cubic phase exsolution, were observed in seven samples, one that was synthesized and annealed at approximately constant ƒO2 (the quartz-fayalite-magnetite, or QFM, buffer) and six that were synthesized at very oxidizing conditions (~QFM + 6 log units) and then annealed at moderately oxidizing (~QFM) conditions. Results demonstrate that the consolute temperature of the multicomponent system is significantly higher than anneal temperatures and Curie temperatures, suggesting that samples that undergo this type of exsolution can carry a total thermal remanent magnetization. Exsolved samples are characterized by a dramatic increase in magnetization and coercivity, and a shift in Curie temperature(s), confirming predictions that this type of exsolution exerts strong control on the strength and stability of magnetization.
Bowles, Julie A.; Tatsumi-Petrochilos, Lisa; Hammer, Julie E.; and Brachfeld, Stefanie A., "Multicomponent cubic oxide exsolution in synthetic basalts: Temperature dependence and implications for magnetic properties" (2012). Geosciences Faculty Articles. Paper 5.