Decoding the nanoscale porosity in serpentinites from multidimensional electron microscopy and discrete element modelling

A Chogani and O Pl├╝mper, CONTRIBUTIONS TO MINERALOGY AND PETROLOGY, 178, 78 (2023).

DOI: 10.1007/s00410-023-02062-4

Serpentinites, widespread in Earth's lithosphere, exhibit inherent nanoporosity that may significantly impact their geochemical behaviour. This study provides a comprehensive investigation into the characteristics, scale dependence, and potential implications of nanoporosity in lizardite-dominated serpentinites. Through a combination of multidimensional imaging techniques and molecular-dynamics-based discrete element modelling, we reveal that serpentinites function as nanoporous media with pore sizes predominantly less than 100 nm. Crystallographic relationships between olivine, serpentine, and nanoporosity are explored, indicating a lack of significant correlations. Instead, stochastic growth and random packing of serpentine grains within mesh cores may result in interconnected porosity. The analysis of pore morphology suggests that the irregular pore shapes align with the crystal form of serpentine minerals. Furthermore, the nanoporosity within brucite-rich layers at the serpentine-olivine interface is attributed to delamination along weak van der Waals planes, while pore formation within larger brucite domains likely results from low-temperature alteration processes. The fractal nature of the pore size distribution and the potential interconnectivity of porosity across different scales further support the presence of a pervasive nanoporous network within serpentinites. Confinement within these nanopores may introduce unique emergent properties, potentially influencing fluid transport, mineral solubility, and chemical reactions. As such, these processes may have profound implications for the geochemical evolution of serpentinites.

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