An experimental study of the effects of surface tension in homogenizing perturbations in melt fraction

Daniel S.H. King, Saswata Hier-Majumder, David L. Kohlstedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Static annealing experiments were conducted on fine-grained samples of a partially molten, olivine-rich rock to explore the role of interfacial tension driven flow in redistributing melt within the sample. A sample of fine-grained olivine +. 20% chromite was prepared with an initially homogeneously distributed melt fraction of 0.04. When this sample was deformed in torsion, the melt segregated into distinct melt-rich bands uniformly spaced throughout the sample, as demonstrated in prior studies. Portions of this sample were then statically annealed for different lengths of time to observe the homogenization of the melt distribution. The evolution of the melt distribution in experimental samples was compared to numerical models based on formulations for interfacial tension driven flow that do or do not incorporate the effects of dissolution/precipitation coupled with diffusive mass transfer of components of the solid phase through the liquid phase (dissolution/diffusion/precipitation). The results indicate that, at the grain size and perturbation length scales in these samples, dissolution/diffusion/precipitation in response to the chemical potential gradient arising from the curvature of solid-liquid phase boundaries at triple junctions plays a significant role in accommodating interfacial tension driven flow. These experiments provide a valuable test for theory and allow us to place constraints on the homogenization rate of perturbations in melt fraction in rocks with a relatively simple composition. The results contribute to increasing our understanding of the nature of melt-rich, high-permeability pathways that may facilitate melt extraction from the upper mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 15 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Mark Zimmerman for assistance with experimental design and sample preparation. Helpful reviews by R. Katz and P. Skemer helped to improve this manuscript. This work was supported by NSF OCE 1060983 (to DLK) and a University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (to DSHK). Acknowledgment is made to the Donors of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for partial support of this research (ACS PRF grant 47853-550 G8 to SH-M).


  • Melt migration
  • Stress-driven melt segregation
  • Surface tension
  • Two-phase flow


Dive into the research topics of 'An experimental study of the effects of surface tension in homogenizing perturbations in melt fraction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this