The discontinuous effect of pressure on twin boundary strength in MgO

Research paper by J. van Driel, G. Schusteritsch, J. P. Brodholt, D. P. Dobson, C. J. Pickard

Indexed on: 14 Jan '20Published on: 14 Jan '20Published in: Physics and Chemistry of Minerals


MgO makes up about 20% of the Earth’s lower mantle; hence, its rheological behaviour is important for the dynamics and evolution of the Earth. Here, we investigate the strength of twin boundaries from 0 to 120 GPa using DFT calculations together with structure prediction methods. As expected, we find that the energy barrier and critical stress for shear-coupled migration of the 310/[001] interface vary strongly with pressure. However, what is surprising is that the twin boundary also exhibits sudden strong discontinuities in strength which can both weaken and strengthen the boundary with increasing pressure. Since twin boundary migration is a proposed mechanism for both deformation and seismic attenuation in MgO, these results may suggest that MgO can undergo sudden changes in rheology due to transitions in grain boundary structure. The multiplicity of interfaces, however, necessitates the need for further studies to examine the role that phase changes in grain boundary structure play in mediating polycrystalline plasticity in the Earth.