Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Natural deep earth pump fuels earthquakes and ore

For the first time scientists have discovered the presence of a natural deep earth pump that is a crucial element in the formation of ore deposits and earthquakes.

The process, called creep cavitation, involves fluid being pumped through pores in deformed rock in mid-crustal sheer zones, which are approximately 15 km below the Earth's surface.

The fluid transfer through the middle crust also plays a key role in tectonic plate movement and mantle degassing.

The discovery was made by examining one millimetre sized cubes of exposed rock in Alice Springs, which was deformed around 320 million years ago during a period of natural mountain formation.

The evidence is described in a paper published in the latest edition of Nature entitled Creep cavitation can establish a dynamic granular fluid pump in ductile shear zones.

One of the paper's author's CSIRO Exploration and Mining scientist Dr Rob Hough said that this was the first direct observation of fluids moving through the mid-crustal shear zone.

"We are seeing the direct evidence for one of the processes that got ore forming fluids moving up from the mantle to the shallow crust to form the ore deposits we mine today, it is also one of the mechanisms that can lead to earthquakes in the middle crust," Dr Hough said.

Research leader Dr Florian Fusseis, from the University of Western Australia, said that the discovery could provide valuable information in understanding how earthquakes are formed.

"While we understand reasonably well why earthquakes happen in general, due to stress build-up caused by motions of tectonic plates, the triggering of earthquakes is much more complex," Dr Fusseis said.

"To understand the 'where' and 'when' of earthquakes, the 'how' needs to be understood first. We know that earthquakes nucleate by failure on a small part of a shear zone."

Dr Fusseis said that while their sample did not record an earthquake it gave them an insight into the structures that could be very small and localized precursors of seismic failure planes.

The discovery was made possible through the use of high-resolution Synchrotron X-ray tomographic, scanning electron microscope observations at the nanoscale and advanced visualisation using iVEC in Western Australia.

The authors of the paper propose that the fluid movement, described as the granular fluid pump, is a self sustaining process where pores open and close allowing fluid and gas to be pumped out.

The paper was written by five authors from CSIRO Exploration and Mining working through the Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship, The School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Western Australia and Advanced Photon Source, and Argonne National Laboratory, USA.

Three of the authors are with CSIRO: Prof Klaus Regenauer-Lieb who shares his time between CSIRO and the University of Western Australia and is also a WA Premiers Fellow; Dr Jie Liu and Dr Rob Hough.

The experiments at the Advanced Photon Source in Chicago were funded in part by the Australian Synchrotron Research Program.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia's major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

Image available at:

Further Information:
Rob Hough, Minerals Down Under Flagship
Ph:08 6436 8763
Media Assistance:
Bob Chamberlain, Minerals Down Under Flagship
Ph:07 3327 4469
Mb:0471 844 308

Bob Chamberlain | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Wandering greenhouse gas
16.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System
14.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>