Letter to the Editor
The origin of GEMS in IDPs as deduced from microstructural evolution of amorphous silicates with annealing
Laboratoire de Structure et Propriétés de l'Etat Solide, UMR 8008, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille, 59655 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS), Bâtiment 121, Université Paris-Sud 11, CNRS (UMR 8617), 91405 Orsay, France
Accepted: 8 January 2006
Aims.We present laboratory studies of the micro-structural evolution of an amorphous ferro-magnesian silicate, of olivine composition, following thermal annealing under vacuum.Methods.The amorphous silicate was prepared as a thin film on a diamond substrate. Annealing under vacuum was performed at temperatures ranging from 870 to 1020 K. After annealing the thin films were extracted from the substrate and analysed by transmission electron microscopy to infer their microstructural and compositional evolution.Results.Spheroidal metallic nano-particles (2-50 nm) are found within the silicate films, which are still amorphous after annealing at 870 K and partially crystallized into forsterite for annealing up to 1020 K. We interpret this microstructure in terms of a reduction of the initial amorphous silicate FeO component, because of the carbon-rich partial pressure in the furnace due to pumping mechanism. Annealing in a controlled oxygen-rich atmosphere confirms this interpretation. Conclusions.The observed microstructures closely resemble those of the GEMS (Glass with Embedded Metal and Sulphides) found in chondritic IDPs (Interplanetary Dust Particles). Since IDPs contain abundant carbonaceous matter, a solid-state reduction reaction may have occurred during heating in the hot inner regions of the proto-solar disc. Related to this, the presence of forsterite grains grown from the amorphous precursor material clearly demonstrates that condensation from gaseous species is not required to explain the occurrence of forsterite around young protostars and in comets. Forsterite grains in these environments can be formed directly in the solid phase by thermal annealing of amorphous ferro-magnesian silicates precursor under reducing conditions. Finally, locking iron as metallic particles within the silicates explains why astronomical silicates always appear observationally Mg-rich.
© ESO, 2006