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Experimental interaction of magma and "dirty" coolants

Abstract : The presence of water at volcanic vents can have dramatic effects on fragmentation and eruption dynamics, but little is known about how the presence of particulate matter in external water will further alter eruptions. Volcanic edifices are inherently "dirty" places, where particulate matter of multiple origins and grainsizes typically abounds. We present the results of experiments designed to simulate non-explosive interactions between molten basalt and various "coolants," ranging from homogeneous suspensions of 0 to 30 mass% bentonite clay in pure water, to heterogeneous and/or stratified suspensions including bentonite, sand, synthetic glass beads and/or naturally-sorted pumice. Four types of data are used to characterise the interactions: (1) visual/video observations; (2) grainsize and morphology of resulting particles; (3) heat-transfer data from a network of eight thermocouples; and (4) acoustic data from three force sensors. In homogeneous coolants with <~10% bentonite, heat transfer is by convection, and the melt is efficiently fragmented into blocky particles through multiple thermal granulation events which produce associated acoustic signals. For all coolants with >~20% sediment, heat transfer is by forced convection and conduction, and thermal granulation is less efficient, resulting in fewer blocky particles, larger grainsizes, and weaker acoustic signals. Many particles are droplet-shaped or/and "vesicular," containing bubbles filled with coolant. Both of these particle types indicate significant hydrodynamic magma-coolant mingling, and many of them are rewelded into compound particles. The addition of coarse material to heterogeneous suspensions further slows heat transfer thus reducing thermal granulation, and variable interlocking of large particles prevents efficient hydrodynamic mingling. This results primarily in rewelded melt piles and inefficient distribution of melt and heat throughout the coolant volume. Our results indicate that even modest concentrations of sediment in water will significantly limit heat transfer during non-explosive magma-water interactions. At high concentrations, the dramatic reduction in cooling efficiency and increase in mingling help to explain globular peperite, and provide information relevant to analyses of premixing associated with highly-explosive molten fuel-coolant interactions in debris-filled volcanic vents.
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C. Ian Schipper, James D.L. White, Bernd Zimanowski, Ingo Sonder, Andrea Schmid. Experimental interaction of magma and "dirty" coolants. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2011, 303, pp.323-336. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2011.01.010⟩. ⟨insu-00587648⟩

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