The recycling of the Earth´s crust in volcanoes happens much faster than scientists have previously assumed. Rock of the ocean crust, which sinks deep into the earth due to the movement of tectonic plates, reemerges through volcanic eruptions after around 500 million years. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz obtained this result using volcanic rock samples. Previously, geologists thought this process would take about two billion years.
Olivine crystals from Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii. The brown ovals are solidified, glassy inclusions trapped as droplets of melt by the growing olivine crystal. They contain strontium isotope ratios which are inherited from 500 million year old seawater. The black dots are gas inclusions.
Image: Sobolev, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.
Virtually all of the ocean islands are volcanoes. Several of them, such as Hawaii, originate from the lowest part of the mantle. This geological process is similar to the movement of colored liquids in a lava lamp: hot rock rises in cylindrical columns, the so-called mantle plumes, from a depth of nearly 3000 kilometers. Near the surface, it melts, because the pressure is reduced, and forms volcanoes. The plume originates from former ocean crust which early in the Earth´s history sank to the bottom of the mantle. Previously, scientists had assumed that this recycling took about two billion years.
The chemical analysis of tiny glassy inclusions in olivine crystals from basaltic lava on Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii has now surprised geologists: the entire recycling process requires at most half a billion years, four times faster than previously thought.
The microscopically small inclusions in the volcanic rock contain trace elements originally dissolved in seawater, and this allows the recycling process to be dated. Before the old ocean crust sinks into the mantle, it soaks up seawater, which leaves tell-tale trace elements in the rock. The age is revealed by the isotopic ratio of strontium which changes with time. Strontium is a chemical element, which occurs in trace amounts in sea water. The isotopes of chemical elements have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Mainz scientists developed a special laser mass spectrometry method which allowed the detection of isotopes of strontium in extremely small quantities.
To their surprise, the Max Planck researchers found residues of sea water with an unexpected strontium isotope ratio in the samples, which suggested an age of less than 500 million years for the inclusions. Therefore the rock material forming the Hawaiian basalts must be younger as previously thought.
"Apparently strontium from sea water has reached deep in the Earth´s mantle, and reemerged after only half a billion years, in Hawaiian volcano lavas," says Klaus Jochum, co-author of the publication. "This discovery was a huge surprise for us."
Another surprise for the scientists was the tremendous variation of strontium isotope ratios found in the melt inclusions in olivine from the single lava sample. “This variation is much larger than the known range for all Hawaiian lavas”, says Alexander Sobolev. “This finding suggests that the mantle is far more chemically heterogeneous on a small spatial scale than we thought before.” This heterogeneity is preserved only by melt inclusions but is completely obliterated in the lavas because of their complete mixing.
Sobolev, Jochum and their colleagues expect to obtain similar results for other volcanoes and therefore be able to determine the recycling age of the ocean crust more precisely.The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
More Information: http://www.mpic.dePublication:
Dr. Wolfgang Huisl | Max-Planck-Institut
Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences