Grain-size-dependent flow mechanisms tend to be favored over dislocation creep at low differential stresses and can potentially influence the rheology of low-stress, low-strain rate environments such as those of planetary interiors. We experimentally investigated the effect of reduced grain size on the solid-state flow of water ice I, a principal component of the asthenospheres of many icy moons of the outer solar system, using techniques new to studies of this deformation regime. We fabricated fully dense ice samples of approximate grain size 2 ?? 1 ??m by transforming "standard" ice I samples of 250 ?? 50 ??m grain size to the higher-pressure phase ice II, deforming them in the ice II field, and then rapidly releasing the pressure deep into the ice I stability field. At T ??? 200 K, slow growth and rapid nucleation of ice I combine to produce a fine grain size. Constant-strain rate deformation tests conducted on these samples show that deformation rates are less stress sensitive than for standard ice and that the fine-grained material is markedly weaker than standard ice, particularly during the transient approach to steady state deformation. Scanning electron microscope examination of the deformed fine-grained ice samples revealed an unusual microstructure dominated by platelike grains that grew normal to the compression direction, with c axes preferentially oriented parallel to compression. In samples tested at T ??? 220 K the elongation of the grains is so pronounced that the samples appear finely banded, with aspect ratios of grains approaching 50:1. The anisotropic growth of these crystallographically oriented neoblasts likely contributes to progressive work hardening observed during the transient stage of deformation. We have also documented remarkably similar microstructural development and weak mechanical behavior in fine-grained ice samples partially transformed and deformed in the ice II field.
Additional publication details
Grain-size-induced weakening of H2O ices I and II and associated anisotropic recrystallization