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Crystal of Fo90 composition blue ringwoodite crystal synthesized at 20 GPa and 1200C.
Category Nesosilicates
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 09.AC.15
Crystal system Cubic
Space group Isometric hexoctahedral
H-M symbol: 4/m32/m
Space group: Fd3m
Unit cell a = 8.113 Å; Z=8
Color Deep blue, also red, violet, or colorless (pure 2(SiO4))
Crystal habit Microcrystalline aggregates
Diaphaneity Semitransparent
Density 3.564 (Fo100); 3.691 (Fo90); 4.845 (Fa100)
Optical properties Isotropic
Refractive index n = 1.8
Birefringence none
Pleochroism none
2V angle 0
References [1][2][3]

Ringwoodite is the high-pressure polymorph of olivine that is stable at high temperatures and pressures of the Earth's mantle between 525 to 660 km depth. This mineral was first identified in the Tenham Meteorites in 1969, [4] and it is inferred to be present in large quantity in the Earth’s mantle. It was named after the Australian earth scientist Alfred E. Ringwood who studied polymorphic phase transitions in the common mantle minerals, olivine and pyroxene, at pressures equivalent to depths as great as about 600 km. Olivine, wadsleyite, and ringwoodite are polymorphs found in the upper mantle of the earth. At depths greater than about 660 km; other minerals, including some with the perovskite structure, are stable. The properties of these minerals determine many of the properties of the mantle.


Ringwoodite is the polymorph of olivine, (Mg, Fe)2SiO4, with the spinel structure. Spinel-group minerals crystallize in the isometric system with an octahedral habit. Olivine is most abundant in the upper mantle, above about 410 km; the olivine polymorphs, wadsleyite and ringwoodite, are thought to dominate the transition zone of the mantle, a zone present from about 410 to 660 km depth. Ringwoodite is thought to be the most abundant mineral phase in the lower part of Earth’s transition zone. The physical and chemical property of this mineral partly determine properties of the mantle at those depths. The pressure range for stability of ringwoodite lies in the approximate range from 18 to 23 GPa.

Apart from the mantle, natural ringwoodite has been found in many shocked chondritic meteorites, in which the ringwoodite occurs as fine-grained polycrystalline aggregates [5]

Geological occurrences[edit]

In meteorites, ringwoodite occurs in the veinlets of quenched shock-melt cutting the matrix and replacing olivine probably produced during shock metamorphism [6]. In Earth's interior, olivine occurs in the upper mantle at depths less than about 410 km, and ringwoodite is inferred to be present within the transition zone from about 520 km to 660 km depth. Seismic discontinuities at about 410, 520, and 660 km depth have been attributed to phase changes involving olivine and its polymorphs. The 520-km discontinuity is generally believed to be caused by the transition of the olivine polymorph, wadsleyite (beta-phase) to ringwoodite (gamma-phase), while the 660-km discontinuity by the phase transformation of ringwoodite (gamma-phase) to a perovskite-structured mineral plus magnesiowüstite [7][8].

Ringwoodite in the lower half of the transition zone is inferred to play a pivotal role in mantle dynamics, and the plastic properties of ringwoodite are thought to be critical in determining flow of material in this part of the mantle. The solubility of hydroxide in ringwoodite is important because of the effect of hydrogen upon rheology. Ringwoodite synthesized at conditions appropriate for the transition zone has been found to contain up to 2.6 weight percent water [9][10]. Because the transition zone between the Earth’s upper and lower mantle helps govern the scale of mass and heat transport throughout the Earth, the presence of water within this region, whether global or localized, may have a significant effect on mantle rheology and therefore mantle circulation[11]. In regions of subduction zones, the ringwoodite stability field hosts high levels of seismicity [12]

Crystal structure[edit]

Ringwoodite crystallizes in the isometric crystal system with space group Fd3m. On the atomic scale, Mg and Si are in octahedral and tetrahedral coordination with oxygen, respectively. The Si-O and Mg-O bonds are both ionic and covalent. The cubic unit cell parameter is 8.063Å for pure Mg2SiO4 and 8.234Å for pure Fe2SiO4.[13]

Chemical composition[edit]

Ringwoodite compositions range from pure Mg2SiO4 to Fe2SiO4 in synthesis experiments. Ringwoodite can incorporate up to 2.6 percent by weight H2O .[14]

Physical properties[edit]

The physical properties of ringwoodite are affected by the pressure and temperature. The calculated density value of ringwoodite is 3.564 g/cm3 for pure Mg2SiO4; 3.691 for Fo90 composition of typical mantle; and 4.845 for Fe2SiO4. It is an isotropic mineral with an index of refraction n = 1.768.

Colour: The colour of ringwoodite varies between the meteorites, between different ringwoodite bearing aggregates, and even in one single aggregate. The ringwoodite aggregates can show every shade of blue, purple, grey and green, or they have no colour at all. A closer look at coloured aggregates shows that the colour is not homogeneous, but seems to originate from something with a size similar to the ringwoodite crystallites [15]. In synthetic samples, pure Mg ringwoodite is colourless, whereas samples containing more that one mole percent Fe2SiO4 are deep blue in color. The color is thought to be due to Fe2+-Fe3+ charge transfer [16].


  1. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  2. ^ Ringwoodite on
  3. ^ Ringwoodite on Webmineral
  4. ^ R A. Binns, R. J. Davis, and No S. J. B Reed (1969) Ringwoodite, natural (Mg,Fe)2SiO4 spinel in the Tenham meteorite. Nature 221,943 944.
  5. ^ Chen. M, El Goresy A., and Gillet P. (2004) Ringwoodite lamellae in olivine: Clues to olivine–ringwoodite phase transition mechanisms in shocked meteorites and subducting slabs. PNAS
  6. ^ Chen. M, El Goresy A., and Gillet P. (2004) Ringwoodite lamellae in olivine: Clues to olivine–ringwoodite phase transition mechanisms in shocked meteorites and subducting slabs. PNAS
  7. ^ Deuss A., Woodhouse J. (2001) Seismic Observations of Splitting of the Mid-Transition Zone Discontinuity in Earth's Mantle Science, New Series, Vol. 294, No. 5541. (Oct. 12, 2001), pp. 354–357.
  8. ^ G. R. Helffrich and B. J. Wood (2001) The Earth's mantle, Nature 412, 501-507.
  9. ^ Kohlstedt, D.L., Keppler H., and Rubie, D.C. (1996) Solubility of water in the alpha, beta, and gamma phases of (Mg,Fe)2SiO4. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 123, 345–357.
  10. ^ Smyth, J. R., Holl, C. M., Frost, D. J., Jacobsen, S. D., Langenhorst, F., and McCammon, C. A. (2003) Structural systematics of hydrous ringwoodite and water in Earth’s interior. American Mineralogist, v. 88, pp. 1402–1407
  11. ^ Kavner A. (2003) Elasticity and strength of hydrous ringwoodite at high pressure. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 214 (2003) 645-654
  12. ^ Xu. Y., Weider D.J., Chen J., Vaughan M.T., Wang Y., and Uchida T. (2003) Flow-law for ringwoodite at subduction zone conditions. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 136 (2003) 3–9.
  13. ^ Smyth, J.R. and T.C. McCormick (1995) Crystallographic data for minerals. in (T.J. Ahrens, ed.) Mineral Physics and Crystallography: A Handbook of Physical Constants, AGU Washington DC, 1-17.
  14. ^ . Ye, Y., D.A. Brown, J. R. Smyth, W.R. Panero, S.D. Jacobsen, Y.-Y. Chang, J.P. Townsend, S.M. Thomas, E. Hauri, P. Dera, and D.J. Frost (2012) Compressibility and thermal expansion study of hydrous Fo100 ringwoodite with 2.5(3) wt% H2O. American Mineralogist 97, 573-582.
  16. ^ Keppler, H., and J.R. Smyth (2005) Optical and near infrared spectra of ringwoodite to 21.5 GPa. American Mineralogist 90, 1209-1214.