New Application Note – Olivine Fragmentation

A new application info sheet use the use of electric pulse fragmentation (EPF) in fragmentation of olivine can be downloaded from our Resources section.

Fluid-rock interaction on icy planetary moons

Amber Zandanel, Prof. Laurent Truche, and Dr. Roland Hellmann at the Institute for Earth Sciences (ISTerre), Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France, are conducting research into fluid-rock alteration processes at chemical and physical conditions that simulate subsurface ocean environments found on icy planetary moons such as Enceladus, Ceres, and small trans-Neptunian objects (TNO’s).

Olivine is a mineral commonly found in these environments on earth, and is commonly found in sea-floor basaltic lavas and material from the mantle, deeper within the Earth. Olivine crystals are also found in meteorites, which very primitive material that planets are eventually made from, making them an appropriate analogue for the mineralogy of extra-terrestrial bodies.

Olivine crystal separates prior to SELFRAG treatment. Field of view is 15cm


Experimentally, olivine grains (San Carlos forsterite olivine, (Mg0.90Fe0.10)2SiO4) will be reacted in the presence of aqueous fluids containing salts, CO2 , and up to 20 wt.% NH3 over a wide range of temperatures (-80 to 250°C). Olivine is a common magnesium-iron silicate mineral found primarily in mafic and ultramafic igneous rocks on Earth, and is also a principal component of stony meteorites called chondrites. To carry out the experiments grains of forsterite with a uniform size range of approximately 3-4 mm were needed.

Crushed olivine crystals. Field of view is 50mm.


The electric pulse fragmentation (EPF) treatment did a perfect job of shattering the original grains (up to 10mm) to the required size. In addition, this technique avoided the production of small fines, and also led to the separation of intergrown pyroxenes from the olivine. Previously unseen inclusions of other minerals such as clinopyroxene  (darker crystals i nteh above image)were also separated from the olivine by EPF. The product after EPF treatment was a uniform size with minimal fines, meaning less waste of valuable sample.

Crushed olivine crystals. Field of view is 10mm