Phase-field study of grain boundary tracking behavior in crack-seal microstructures

Kumar Ankit, Britta Nestler, Michael Selzer, Mathias Reichardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In order to address the growth of crystals in veins, a multiphase-field model is used to capture the dynamics of crystals precipitating from a super-saturated solution. To gain a detailed understanding of the polycrystal growth phenomena in veins, we investigate the influence of various boundary conditions on crystal growth. In particular, we analyze the formation of vein microstructures resulting from the free growth of crystals as well as crack-sealing processes. We define the crystal symmetry by considering the anisotropy in surface energy to simulate crystals with flat facets and sharp corners. The resulting growth competition of crystals with different orientations is studied to deduce a consistent orientation selection rule in the free-growth regime. Using crack-sealing simulations, we correlate the grain boundary tracking behavior depending on the relative rate of crack opening, opening trajectory, initial grain size, and wall roughness. Further, we illustrate how these parameters induce the microstructural transition between blocky (crystals growing anisotropically) to fibrous morphology (isotropic) and formation of grain boundaries. The phase-field simulations of crystals in the free-growth regime (in 2D and 3D) indicate that the growth or consumption of a crystal is dependent on the orientation difference with neighboring crystals. The crack-sealing simulation results (in 2D and 3D) reveal that crystals grow isotropically and grain boundaries track the opening trajectory if the wall roughness is high, opening increments are small, and crystals touch the wall before the next crack increment starts. Further, we find that within the complete crack-seal regime, anisotropy in surface energy results in the formation of curved/oscillating grain boundaries (instead of straight) when the crack-opening velocity is increased and wall roughness is not sufficiently high. Additionally, the overall capability of phase-field method to simulate large-scale polycrystal growth in veins (in 3D) is demonstrated enumerating the main advantages of adopting the novel approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1709-1723
Number of pages15
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Anisotropic surface energy
  • Crystal growth
  • Phase-field method
  • Veins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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