Microlites and "nanolites" in rhyolitic glass: Microstructural and chemical characterization

T. G. Sharp, R. J. Stevenson, D. B. Dingwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


We used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to study magmatic crystals in the Ben Lomond rhyolite lava dome, Taupo Volcanic Center, New Zealand. Using TEM and SEM to investigate the size distributions of these crystals, we identified three size populations: microphenocrysts (>1.2 μm wide), microlites (>0.6 μm wide), and smaller crystals (<0.6 μm wide) which we term "nanolites". The predominant mineral phases of the microlites and nanolites are augites, pigeonites, and hypersthenes. The compositions and microstructures within these pyroxenes indicate disequilibrium crystallization at approximately 850-900°C and undercoolings as high as 300°C from equilibrium crystallization temperatures. Complex microstructures resulting from subsolidus reactions in augite and pigeonite are consistent with moderate cooling rates within the upper obsidian layer of the Ben Lomond rhyolite dome. This study demonstrates the existence of sub-micron magmatic crystals in a rhyolite and illustrates the potential of TEM to provide unique information about the crystallization and cooling histories of glassy volcanic rocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-640
Number of pages10
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Crystallization
  • Microlite
  • Microphenocryst
  • Microstructures
  • Nanolite
  • Rhyolite
  • Size distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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