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Nanoscale Constraints on Porosity Generation and Fluid Flow during Serpentinization



Benjamin Tutolo, David F. Mildner, Cedric V. Gagnon, Martin O. Saar, Jr. Seyfried


Field samples of olivine-rich rocks are nearly always serpentinized¿often to completion¿but, paradoxically, their intrinsic porosity and permeability are diminishingly low. Serpentinization reactions occur through a coupled process of fluid infiltration, volumetric expansion, and reaction-driven fracturing. Pores and reactive surface area generated during the fracturing process are the primary pathways for fluid infiltration into and reaction with serpentinizing rocks, but the size and distribution of these pores and surface area have not yet been described. Here, we utilize small and ultra-small angle neutron scattering ((U)SANS) techniques to present the first measurements of the evolution of pore size and specific surface area distribution in partially serpentinized rocks. Samples were obtained from IODP hole 1309D into the 2 million year old Atlantis Massif oceanic core complex located off-axis of the Mid- Atlantic Ridge and an olivine-rich outcrop of the 1.1 billion year old Duluth Complex of the North American Mid-Continent Rift. Our (U)SANS measurements and analyses demonstrate that serpentine and accessory phases form with their own, inherent porosity, which accommodates the bulk of diffusive fluid flow during serpentinization and thereby permits continued serpentinization after voluminous serpentine minerals fill fracturing-generated porosity.


fluid infiltration, olivine-rich roks, pore size and surface area, porosity and permeability, porosity generation, reaction-driven fracturing, serpentinization


Tutolo, B. , Mildner, D. , Gagnon, C. , Saar, M. and Seyfried, J. (2016), Nanoscale Constraints on Porosity Generation and Fluid Flow during Serpentinization, Geology, [online], (Accessed June 18, 2024)


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Created January 31, 2016, Updated October 12, 2021