TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 62 (No. 1), pp. 53-56, 2010

Thermal metamorphoses of cosmic dust aggregates: experiments by furnace, electrical gas discharge, and radiative heating

Torsten Poppe1, Carsten Güttler2, and Tilman Springborn2

1Blumenstraße 2, 38162 Weddel in Braunschweig, Germany
2Institut für Geophysik und extraterrestrische Physik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Mendelssohnstraße 3, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany

(Received July 30, 2008; Revised October 2, 2008; Accepted October 3, 2008; Online published February 12, 2010)

Abstract: We experimentally investigated thermal modifications of porous dust aggregates composed of micrometer-sized grains by furnace, electrical discharge, and laser radiation heating. In the furnace, porous SiO2 aggregates of 95% porosity at first underwent surface diffusion sintering, which led to progressively increasing necking between adjacent particles. Subsequently, viscous flow dissolved the particulate structure of the still porous sample, and finally melting occurred. Exposing aggregates of various grain types to electrical discharges dispersed most of the sample and left it thermally unprocessed. Nevertheless, some material was thermally processed to sintered aggregates and a tiny fraction to solidified melt spherules with diameters of less than 180 μm and most with interior bubbles. In comparison, radiative laser heating turned out to be a much more efficient process to produce melt spherules of chondrule size, and voids were rarer than in discharge heating. Besides providing material data for further applications, our work also allows a direct conclusion to be drawn on chondrule formation. Low energetic efficiency and aggregate destruction exclude chondrule formation from loosely-bound aggregates inside hypothetical nebular lightning channels. However, radiative heating of whatever origin, including possible lightning, remains a candidate process of chondrule formation.
Key words: Preplanetary dust aggregates, thermal transformations, sintering, chondrule formation, method: laboratory.

Corresponding author E-mail: t.poppe@tu-bs.de

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