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Applications of Fluid Dynamics to Petrology and Ore Genesis


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Author Turner SJ


Laboratory experiments have been used to
study a wide range of convective processes which
are significant for the formation of rocks and the
ores that form in them. Metal-rich solutions
flowing through the sea floor produce ‘black
smoker’ chimneys; both the size and structure of
a solid chimney and the height to which the plume
of effluent rises above it can be predicted using
model experiments. Analogues of processes in
solidifying magmas can also be studied using
crystallizing aqueous solutions. The release of
lighter or denser residual fluid as
crystallization proceeds, and the resulting
compositional convection, have a vital influence
on the differentiation of initially homogeneous
magma and on the evolution of stratified magma
chambers. Mixing during the replenishment of
magma chambers, and its dependence on the rate of
filling and on the fluid properties, have also
been studied on the laboratory scale. Experiments
carried out in different geometries have been
applied here to the formation of platinum and
chromite ores and komatiite lavas. Larger-scale
mantle convection, in particular the motion of
subducting plates and plumes rising from the core-
mantle boundary, also determine the tectonic
settings in which ore bodies form. These
phenomena too can be usefully investigated in
laboratory experiments using very viscous fluids.