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Electrical conductivity of polycrystalline Mg(OH)2 at 2 GPa: effect of grain boundary hydration-dehydration

Abstract : The effect of intergranular water on the conductivity of polycrystalline brucite, Mg(OH)2, was investigated using impedance spectroscopy at 2 GPa, during consecutive heating-cooling cycles in the 298-980 K range. The grain boundary hydration levels tested here span water activities from around unity (wet conditions) down to 10−4 (dry conditions) depending on temperature. Four orders of magnitude in water activity result in electrical conductivity variations for about 6-7 orders of magnitude at 2 GPa and room temperature. Wet brucite samples containing, initially, about 18 wt% of evaporable water (i.e. totally removed at temperatures below 393 K in air), display electrical conductivity values above 10−2-10−3 S/m. A.C. electrical conductivity as a function of temperature follows an Arrhenius behaviour with an activation energy of 0.11 eV. The electrical conductivity of the same polycrystalline brucite material dried beforehand at 393 K (dry conditions) is lower by about 5-6 orders of magnitude at room temperature and possesses an activation energy of 0.8-0.9 eV which is close to that of protonic diffusion in (001) brucitic planes. Above ca. 873 K, a non-reversible conductivity jump is observed which is interpreted as a water transfer from mineral bulk to grain boundaries (i.e. partial dehydration). Cooling of such partially dehydrated sample shows electrical conductivities much higher than those of the initially dry sample by 4 orders of magnitude at 500 K. Furthermore, the corresponding activation energy is decreased by a factor of about four (i.e. 0.21 eV). Buffering of the sample at low water activity has been achieved by adding CaO or MgO, two hygroscopic compounds, to the starting material. Then, sample conductivities reached the lowest values encountered in this study with the activation energy of 1.1 eV. The strong dependency of the electrical conductivity with water activity highlights the importance of the latter parameter as a controlling factor of diffusion rates in natural processes where water availability and activity may vary grandly. Water exchange between mineral bulk and mineral boundary suggests that grain boundary can be treated as an independent phase in dehydroxylation reactions.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 19, 2012 - 11:16:07 AM
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Julien Gasc, Fabrice Brunet, Nikolai Bagdassarov, Victor Morales-Florez. Electrical conductivity of polycrystalline Mg(OH)2 at 2 GPa: effect of grain boundary hydration-dehydration. Physics and Chemistry of Minerals, Springer Verlag, 2011, 38 (7), pp.543-556. ⟨10.1007/s00269-011-0426-3⟩. ⟨insu-00680329⟩

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