Bubble migration in a compacting crystal-liquid mush


Recent theoretical models have suggested that bubbles are unlikely to undergo significant migration in a compaction crystal mush by capillary invasion while the system remains partly molten. To test this, experiments of bubble migration during compaction in a crystal-liquid mush were modeled using deformable foam crystals in corn syrup in a volumetric burette, compacted with rods of varying weights. A bubble source was provided by sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer®). Large bubbles (>several crystal sizes) are pinched by the compacting matrix and become overpressured and deformed as the bubbles experience a load change from hydrostatic to lithostatic. Once they begin to move, they move much faster than the compaction-driven liquid. Bubbles that are about the same size as the crystals but larger than the narrower pore throats move by deformation or breaking into smaller bubbles as they are forced through pore restrictions. Bubbles that are less than the typical pore diameter generally move with the liquid: The liquid + bubble mixture behaves as a single phase with a lower density than the bubble-free liquid, and as a consequence it rises faster than bubble-free liquid and allows for faster compaction. The overpressure required to force a bubble through the matrix (max grain size = 5 mm) is modest, about 5 %, and it is estimated that for a grain size of 1 mm, the required overpressure would be about 25 %. Using apatite distribution in a Stillwater olivine gabbro as an analog for bubble nucleation and growth, it is suggested that relatively large bubbles initially nucleate and grow in liquid-rich channels that develop late in the compaction history. Overpressure from compaction allows bubbles to rise higher into hotter parts of the crystal pile, where they redissolve and increase the volatile content of the liquid over what it would have without the bubble migration, leading to progressively earlier vapor saturation during crystallization of the interstitial liquid. Bubbles can also move rapidly by ‘surfing’ on porosity waves that can develop in a compacting mush.

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Much thanks for discussions of earlier thoughts on this manuscript by Bernard Boudreau of Dalhousie University and Andrea Parmigiani of ETH Zürich. Careful reviews by Mattia Pistone of the Smithsonian Institution and two anonymous reviewers much improved the quality of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alan Boudreau.

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Boudreau, A. Bubble migration in a compacting crystal-liquid mush. Contrib Mineral Petrol 171, 32 (2016).

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  • Bubble migration
  • Igneous fluids
  • Layered intrusions