Experiments on flow focusing in soluble porous media, with applications to melt extraction from the mantle

P. B. Kelemen, J. A. Whitehead, E. Aharonov, K. A. Jordahl

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The authors demonstrate finite structures formed as a consequence of the "reactive infiltration instability' in a series of laboratory and numerical experiments with growth of solution channels parallel to the fluid flow direction. Regions with initially high porosity have high ratios of fluid volume to soluble solid surface area and exhibit more rapid fluid-flow at constant pressure, so that dissolution reactions in these regions produce a relatively rapid increase in porosity. As channels grow, large ones entrain flow laterally inward and extend rapidly. As a result, small channels are starved and disappear. The experiments demonstrate channel growth in the presence of an initial solution front and without an initial solution front where there is a gradient in the solubility of the solid matrix. As a consequence of the gradient results, it is suggested that the reactive infiltration instability is important in the Earth's mantle, where partial melts in the mantle ascend adiabatically. Mantle peridotite becomes increasingly soluble as the melts decompress. Dissolution reactions between melts and peridotite will produce an increase in liquid mass and lead to formation of porous channels composed of dunite (>95% olivine). -from Authors

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)475-496
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberB1
StatePublished - 1995


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