Abstract

X-ray computed tomography was used to detail the internal structure of sea-floor hydrothermal vent samples. A third-generation industrial computed tomography (CT) scanner with a microfocus tube was used to scan a black smoker chimney and cores taken from a white smoker chimney and a block of Fe-rich sulfide. Images of the black smoker chimney clearly show sulfide- versus anhydrite-dominated areas. Display of pore space in three dimensions shows the complex geometry of the main flow conduit, and also much smaller (2–3 mm diameter) conduits within the chimney wall that parallel the main flow conduit. Images of the white smoker sample document the continuity of an anastomosing ∼1-mm-diameter flow conduit, and the pronounced anisotropy of porosity. Tube structures presumed to be casts of worm tubes are clearly evident in images of the Fe-rich sulfide sample. X-ray CT is an excellent technique for rapidly identifying the internal structure of porosity and mineralogy of fragile hydrothermal precipitates on scales of tens of microns to hundreds of millimeters, and data can be used to deduce styles of fluid flow and other processes involved in vent deposit formation.

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