Laboratory electrical conductivity measurement of mantle minerals

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161 Citations (Scopus)


Electrical conductivity structures of the Earth's mantle estimated from the magnetotelluric and geomagnetic deep sounding methods generally show increase of conductivity from 10-4-10-2 to 100 S/m with increasing depth to the top of the lower mantle. Although conductivity does not vary significantly in the lower mantle, the possible existence of a highly conductive layer has been proposed at the base of the lower mantle from geophysical modeling. The electrical properties of mantle rocks are controlled by thermodynamic parameters such as pressure, temperature and chemistry of the main constituent minerals. Laboratory electrical conductivity measurements of mantle minerals have been conducted under high pressure and high temperature conditions using solid medium high-pressure apparatus. To distinguish several charge transport mechanisms in mantle minerals, it is necessary to measure the electrical conductivity in a wider temperature range. Although the correspondence of data has not been yet established between each laboratory, an outline tendency of electrical conductivity of the mantle minerals is almost the same. Most of mineral phases forming the Earth's mantle exhibit semiconductive behavior. Dominant conduction mechanism is small polaron conduction (electron hole hopping between ferrous and ferric iron), if these minerals contain iron. The phase transition olivine to high-pressure phases enhances the conductivity due to structural changes. As a result, electrical conductivity increases in order of olivine, wadsleyite and ringwoodite along the adiabat geotherm. The phase transition to post-spinel at the 660 km discontinuity further can enhance the conductivity. In the lower mantle, the conductivity once might decrease in the middle of the lower mantle due to the iron spin transition and then abruptly increase at the condition of the D″ layer. The impurities in the mantle minerals strongly control the formation, number and mobility of charge carriers. Hydrogen in nominally anhydrous minerals such as olivine and high-pressure polymorphs can enhance the conductivity by the proton conduction. However, proton conduction has lower activation enthalpy compared with small polaron conduction, a contribution of proton conduction becomes smaller at high temperatures, corresponding to the mantle condition. Rather high iron content in mantle minerals largely enhances the conductivity of the mantle. This review focuses on a compilation of fairly new advances in experimental laboratory work together with their explanation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-206
Number of pages44
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Electrical conductivity
  • High pressure
  • Mantle
  • Mineral
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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