Eruption style and crystal size distributions: Crystallization of groundmass nanolites in the 2011 Shinmoedake eruption

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Crystallization of groundmass minerals may record the physicochemical conditions of magmatic processes upon eruption and is thus a topic of interdisciplinary research in the disciplines of mineralogy, petrology, and volcanology. Recent studies have reported that the groundmass crystals of some volcanic rocks exhibit a break in their crystal size distribution (CSD) slopes that range from a few micrometers to hundreds of nanometers. The crystals consisting of the finer parts of the break were defined as nanolites. In this study, we report the presence of nanometer-scale crystals down to 1 nm in the pyroclasts of the 2011 eruption of Shinmoedake, the Kirishima volcano group, based on field emission-scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). We discovered a gap (hiatus) from ∼100 to ∼30 nm in the size distribution of pyroxene in a dense juvenile fragment of a vulcanian explosion. The pyroxene crystals ∼20-30 nm on a diameter were ferroaugite (C2/c), while those a few hundred nanometers in width had a composite structure consisting of the domains of orthopyroxene (Pbca), augite (C2/c), and sub-calcic augite (C2/c). In high-angle annular dark-field scanning TEM images of the same sample, bright spots ∼1-2 nm in diameter were recognized with a gap in size from ∼10-20 nm titanomagnetite (Fd3m). They are presumed to have Fe-rich compositions, although their phases were too small to be determined. In addition, we found that crystals smaller than a few tens of nanometers for pyroxene and 100 nm for plagioclase did not exist or their number densities were too low for accurate determination. This indicates that there are practical minimum sizes of the crystals. These observations show that nucleation of the nanoscale crystals almost paused (froze) in the late stage of groundmass crystallization, possibly due to a decrease in undercooling, increase in interfacial free energy, and decrease in diffusivity in a dehydrated melt, whereas crystal growth was mostly continuous. In this paper, we introduce the novel term "ultrananolite," to refer to crystals smaller than 30 nm in diameter, and redefine "nanolite" simply as those 30 nm to 1 μm in width, complementing the size interval of crystals in volcanic groundmass smaller than microlites (1-30 μm). In the transient nucleation process, the presence of subcritical size clusters is required. The observed ultrananolite-sized particles might partly include subcritical clusters. The difference in the slope of CSDs, presence of gaps in size distribution, and minimum crystal size among the eruption styles of the 2011 Shinmoedake eruption may be interpreted by considering the difference in magma residence time and fragmentation pressure in the shallow conduit, and possibly the rewelding process in the crater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2367-2380
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Mineralogist
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 20
Externally publishedYes


  • Microlite
  • Rates and Depths of Magma Ascent on Earth
  • crystal size distribution
  • nanolite
  • transient nucleation
  • ultrananolite
  • vulcanian explosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Eruption style and crystal size distributions: Crystallization of groundmass nanolites in the 2011 Shinmoedake eruption'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this