Kelly Kranjc, Arashdeep S. Thind, Albina Y. Borisevich, Rohan Mishra,
Katharine M. Flores, and Philip Skeme JGR Solid Earth (2020)
Experimentally quantifying the viscoplastic rheology of olivine at the high stresses and low temperatures of the shallow lithosphere is challenging due to olivine’s propensity to deform by brittle mechanisms at these conditions. In this study, we use microscale uniaxial compression tests to investigate the rheology of an olivine single crystal at room pressure and temperature. Pillars with nominal diameters of 1.25 μm were prepared using a focused ion beam milling technique and were subjected to sustained axial stresses of several gigapascal. The majority of the pillars failed after dwell times ranging from several seconds to a few hours. However, several pillars exhibited clear evidence of plastic deformation without failure after 4–8 hr under load. The corresponding creep strain rates are estimated to be on the order of 10−6 to 10−7 s−1.The uniaxial stresses required to achieve this deformation (4.1–4.4 GPa) are in excellent agreement with complementary data obtained using nanoindentation techniques. Scanning transmission electron microscopy observations indicate that deformation occurred along amorphous shear bands within the deformed pillars. Electron energy loss spectroscopy measurements revealed that the bands are enriched in Fe and depleted in Mg. We propose that inhomogeneities in the cation distribution in olivine concentrate stress and promote the amorphization of the Fe‐rich regions. The time dependence of catastrophic failure events suggests that the amorphous bands must grow to some critical length scale to generate an unstable defect, such as a shear crack.