Hydrothermal alteration of basalt by seawater under seawater-dominated conditions

William E. Seyfried, Michael J. Mottl

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Fresh mid-ocean ridge basalt glass and diabase have been reacted with seawater at 150-300°C, 500 bar, and water/rock mass ratios of 50, 62, and 125, using experimental apparatus which allowed on-line sampling of solution to monitor reaction progress. These experiments characterize reaction under what we have called "seawater-dominated" conditions of hydrothermal alteration. In an experiment at 300°C, basalt glass undergoing alteration removed nearly all Mg2+ from an amount of seawater 50 times its own mass. In the process, the glass was converted entirely to mixed-layer smectite-chlorite, anhydrite, and minor hematite. Removal of Mg from seawater occurred as a Mg(OH)2 component incorporated into the secondary clay. This produced a precipitous drop in solution pH early in the experiment, accompanied by a dramatic increase in the concentrations of Fe, Mn, and Zn in solution. As Mg removal neared completion and the glass was hydrolyzed, pH rose again and heavy metal concentrations dropped. At water/rock ratios of 62 and 125 and 150-300°C, the mineral assemblage produced was similar to that at a water/rock ratio of 50. Solution chemistry, however, contrasted with the earlier experiment in that Mg concentrations in solution were greater and pH lower. This caused significant leaching of heavy metals. At 300°C nearly all of the Na, Ca, Cu, Zn, and CO2 and most of the K, Ba, Sr, and Mn were leached from the silicates. H2S, Al, Si, and possibly Co were also significantly mobilized, whereas V, Cr, and Ni were not. Little or no seawater sulfate was reduced. Although submarine hot spring solutions sampled to date along mid-ocean ridges clearly come from rock-dominated hydrothermal systems, evidence from ocean floor metabasalts and from heat flow studies indicates that seawater-dominated conditions of alteration prevail at least locally both in axial hightemperature systems and in ridge flank systems at lower temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)985-1002
Number of pages18
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1982


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