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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Dissolution‐Assisted Pattern Formation During Olivine Carbonation


Olivine and pyroxene-bearing rocks in the oceanic crust react with hydrothermal fluids producing changes in the physical characteristics and behaviors of the altered rocks. Notably, these reactions tend to increase solid volume, reducing pore volume, permeability, and available reactive surface area, yet entirely hydrated and/or carbonated rocks are commonly observed in the field. We investigate the evolution of porosity and permeability of fractured dunites reacted with CO2-rich solutions in laboratory experiments. The alteration of crack surfaces changes the mechanical and transport properties of the bulk samples. Analysis of three-dimensional microstructural data shows that although precipitation of secondary minerals causes the total porosity of the sample to decrease, an interconnected network of porosity is maintained through channelized dissolution and coupled carbonate precipitation. The observed microstructure appears to be the result of chemo-mechanical coupling, which may provide a mechanism of porosity maintenance without the need to invoke reaction-driven cracking.

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