Energy dissipation at the silica glass/compressed aerogel interface: The fate of Wild 2 mineral grains and fragments smaller than ~100 nm.

Rietmeijer, F. J. M.

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12695


“Allocation FC6,0,10,0,26 from Stardust track 10 shows a slightly wavy silica glass/compressed silica aerogel interface exposing a patchwork of compressed silica aerogel domains and domains of silica glass with embedded Wild 2 materials in ultra-thin TEM sections. This interface is where molten silica encountered compressed silica aerogel at temperatures <100 °C, and probably near room temperature, causing steep thermal gradients. An Mg, Fe-olivine grain, and a plagioclase-leucite intergrowth survived without melting in silica glass. A Mg-, Al-, Ca-, K-bearing silica globule moved independently as a single object. Two clusters of pure iron, low-Ni iron, and low-Ni, low-sulfur Fe-Ni-S grains also survived intact and came to rest right at the interface between silica glass/compressed silica aerogel. There are numerous Fe-Ni-S nanograins scattered throughout MgO-rich magnesiosilica glass, but compositionally similar Fe-Ni-S are also found in the compressed silica aerogel, where they are not supposed to be. This work could not establish how deep they had penetrated the aerogel. Iron nanograins in this allocation form core-ring grains with a gap between the iron core and a surrounding ring of thermally modified aerogel. This structure was caused when rapid, thermal expansion of the core heated the surrounding compressed aerogel that upon rapid cooling remained fixed in place while the iron core shrank back to its original size. The well-known volume expansion of pure iron allowed reconstruction of the quench temperature for individual core-ring grains. These temperatures showed the small scale of thermal energy loss at the silica glass/compressed silica aerogel interface. The data support fragmentation of olivine, plagioclase, and iron and Fe ± low-Ni grains from comet 81P/Wild 2 during hypervelocity capture."