Immiscible metallic melts in the deep Earth: clues from moissanite (SiC) in volcanic rocks

Jin-Xiang Huang*, Qing Xiong, Sarah E. M. Gain, William L. Griffin, Timothy D. Murphy, Andrei A. Shiryaev, Liwu Li, Vered Toledo, Mikhail D. Tomshin, Suzanne Y. O'Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The occurrence of moissanite (SiC), as xenocrysts in mantle-derived basaltic and kimberlitic rocks sheds light on the interplay between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the lithospheric and sublithospheric mantle. SiC is stable only at ƒO2 < ΔIW−6, while the lithospheric mantle and related melts commonly are considered to be much more oxidized. SiC grains from both basaltic volcanoclastic rocks and kimberlites contain metallic inclusions whose shapes suggest they were entrapped as melts. The inclusions consist of Si0 + Fe3Si7 ± FeSi2Ti ± CaSi2Al2 ± FeSi2Al3 ± CaSi2, and some of the phases show euhedral shapes toward Si0. Crystallographically-oriented cavities are common in SiC, suggesting the former presence of volatile phase(s), and the volatiles extracted from crushed SiC grains contain H2 + CH4 ± CO2 ± CO. Our observations suggest that SiC crystalized from metallic melts (Si-Fe-Ti-C ± Al ± Ca), with dissolved H2 + CH4 ± CO2 ± CO derived from the sublithospheric mantle and concentrated around interfaces such as the lithosphere-asthenosphere and crust-mantle boundaries. When mafic/ultramafic magmas are continuously fluxed with H2 + CH4 they can be progressively reduced, to a point where silicide melts become immiscible, and crystallize phases such as SiC. The occurrence of SiC in explosive volcanic rocks from different tectonic settings indicates that the delivery of H2 + CH4 from depth may commonly accompany explosive volcanism and modify the redox condition of some lithospheric mantle volumes. The heterogeneity of redox states further influences geochemical reactions such as melting and geophysical properties such as seismic velocity and the viscosity of mantle rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1488
Number of pages10
JournalScience Bulletin
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2020


  • Moissanite
  • Reduced gas
  • Alloy inclusion
  • Mantle


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