Micropores and Micropermeable Texture in Alkali Feldspars: Geochemical and Geophysical Implications

F. David L. Walker, Martin R. Lee and Ian Parsons
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JW, Scotland

Abstract: Scanning Electron Microscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy show that normal, slightly turbid alkali feldspars from many plutonic rocks contain high concentrations of micropores, from ∼1 µm to a few nm in length, typically 0.1 µm. There may be 109 pores mm−3 and porosities as high as 4.75 vol.% have been observed, although ∼1% is typical. Only ‘pristine’ feldspars, which are dark coloured when seen in the massive rock, such as in larvikite and some rapakivi granites, are almost devoid of pores. Weathering enlarges prexisting pores and exploits sub-regularly spaced edge dislocations which occur in semicoherent microperthites, but the underlying textures which lead to skeletal grains in soils are inherited from the high temperature protolith. Most pores are devoid of solid inclusions, but a variety of solid particles has been found. Although the presence of fluid in pores cannot usually be demonstrated directly, crushing experiments have shown that Ar and halogens reside in fluids. Some pores are ‘negative crystals’, often with re-entrants defined by the {110} Adularia habit, while others have curved surfaces often tapering to thin, cusp-shaped apices. The variable shape of pores accounts for the ability of some pores to retain fluid although the texture is elsewhere micropermeable, as shown by 18O exchange experiments.

Apart from rare, primary pores in pristine feldspar, pore development is accompanied by profound recrystallization of the surrounding microtexture, with partial loss of coherency in cryptoperthites. This leads to marked ‘deuteric coarsening’ forming patch and vein perthite, and replacement of ‘tweed’ orthoclase by twinned microcline. The Ab- and Or-rich phases in patch perthite are made up of discrete subgrains and the cuspate pores often develop at triple-junctions between them. Coarsened lamellar and vein perthites are composed of microporous subgrain textures. These ‘unzipping’ reactions result from fluid-feldspar interactions, at T <450°C in hypersolvus syenites and T < 350°C in a subsolvus granites, and are driven by elastic strain-energy in coherent cryptoperthites and in tweed textures. Further textural change may continue to surface temperatures. In salic igneous rocks there is a general connection between turbidity and the type of mafic mineral present; pristine alkali feldspars occur in salic igneous rocks with a preponderance of anhydrous mafic phases.

Because alkali feldspar is so abundant (and larger, 10 μm pores have previously been described in plagioclase), intracrystal porosity is a non-trivial feature of a large volume of the middle and upper crust. The importance of pores in the following fields is discussed: 39Ar/40Ar dating and ‘thermochronometry’; oxygen exchange; Rb and Sr diffusion; weathering; experimental low-temperature dissolution; development of secondary porosity and diagenetic albitization; leachable sources of metals; nuclear waste isolation; deformation; seismic anisotropy; electrical conductivity. Important questions concern the temperature range of the development of the textures and their stability during burial and transport into the deeper crust.

Keywords: feldspar • alkali • micropores • micropermeable texture

Mineralogical Magazine; September 1995 v. 59; no. 396; p. 505-534; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1995.059.396.12
© 1995, The Mineralogical Society
Mineralogical Society (www.minersoc.org)