Abstract

Field samples of olivine-rich rocks are nearly always serpentinized—commonly 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 this 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 neutron scattering 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 the ca. 2 Ma Atlantis Massif oceanic core complex located off-axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and an olivine-rich outcrop of the ca. 1.1 Ga Duluth Complex of the North American Mid-Continent Rift. Our 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 reaction-generated porosity.

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