High-Pressure Mechanical Properties of Talc: Implications for Fault Strength and Slip Processes

Y. Boneh, M. Pec, G. Hirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The hydrous mineral talc is stable over a relatively large P-T field and can form due to fluid migration and metamorphic reactions in mafic and ultramafic rocks and in faults along plate boundary interfaces. Talc is known to be one of the weakest minerals, making it potentially important for the deformation dynamics and seismic characteristics of faults. However, little is known about talc's mechanical properties at high temperatures under confining pressures greater than 0.5 GPa. We present results of deformation experiments on natural talc cylinders exploring talc rheology under 0.5–1.5 GPa and 400–700°C, P-T conditions simulating conditions at deep faults and subducted slab interface. At these pressures, the strength of talc is highly temperature-dependent where the thermal weakening is associated with an increased tendency for localization. The strength of talc and friction coefficient inferred from Mohr circle analysis is between 0.13 at 400°C to ∼0.01 at 700°C. Strength comparison with other phyllosilicates highlights talc as the weakest mineral, a factor of ∼3–4 weaker than antigorite and a factor of ∼2 weaker than chlorite. The observed friction coefficients for talc are consistent with those inferred for subducted slabs and the San Andreas fault. We conclude that the presence of talc may explain the low strength of faults and of subducted slab interface at depths where transient slow slip events occur.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JB025815
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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