Compressional pathways of α-cristobalite, structure of cristobalite X-I, and towards the understanding of seifertite formation.OPEN ACCESS 

Ana Černok, Katharina Marquardt, Razvan Caracas, Elena Bykova, Gerlinde Habler, Hanns-Peter Liermann, Michael Hanfland, Mohamed Mezouar, Ema Bobocioiu, Leonid Dubrovinsky.

Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 15647
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15647


“In various shocked meteorites, low-pressure silica polymorph α-cristobalite is commonly found in close spatial relation with the densest known SiO2 polymorph seifertite, which is stable above ∼80 GPa. We demonstrate that under hydrostatic pressure α-cristobalite remains untransformed up to at least 15 GPa. In quasi-hydrostatic experiments, above 11 GPa cristobalite X-I forms—a monoclinic polymorph built out of silicon octahedra; the phase is not quenchable and back-transforms to α-cristobalite on decompression. There are no other known silica polymorphs, which transform to an octahedra-based structure at such low pressures upon compression at room temperature. Further compression in non-hydrostatic conditions of cristobalite X-I eventually leads to the formation of quenchable seifertite-like phase. Our results demonstrate that the presence of α-cristobalite in shocked meteorites or rocks does not exclude that materials experienced high pressure, nor is the presence of seifertite necessarily indicative of extremely high peak shock pressures.”