Microtomography of Partially Molten Rocks: Three-Dimensional Melt Distribution in Mantle Peridotite

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Science  01 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6025, pp. 88-91
DOI: 10.1126/science.1202221

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The permeability of the upper mantle controls melt segregation beneath spreading centers. Reconciling contradictory geochemical and geophysical observations at ocean ridges requires a better understanding of transport properties in partially molten rocks. Using x-ray synchrotron microtomography, we obtained three-dimensional data on melt distribution for mantle peridotite with various melt fractions. At melt fractions as low as 0.02, triple junctions along grain edges dominated the melt network; there was no evidence of an abrupt change in the fundamental character of melt extraction as melt fraction increased to 0.2. The porosity of the partially molten region beneath ocean ridges is therefore controlled by a balance between viscous compaction and melting rate, not by a change in melt topology.

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