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Direct measurement of asperity contact growth in quartz at hydrothermal conditions

January 26, 2015

Earthquake recurrence requires interseismic fault restrengthening which results from solid state deformation in room-temperature friction and indentation experiments. In contrast exhumed fault zones show solution-transport processes such as pressure solution and contact overgrowths influence fault zone properties . In the absence of fluid flow, overgrowths are driven by gradients in surface curvature where material is dissolved, diffuses, and precipitates at the contact without convergence normal to the contact. To determine the rate of overgrowth for quartz, we conducted single contact experiments in an externally heated pressure vessel. Convergence was continuously monitored using reflected-light interferometry through a long-working-distance microscope. Contact normal force was constant with an initial effective normal stress of 1.7 MPa, temperature was between 350 and 530{degree sign}C, and water pressure was constant at 150 MPa. Two control experiments were conducted: one dry at 425{degree sign}C and one bi-material (sapphire) at 425{degree sign}C and 150 MPa water pressure. No contact growth or convergence was observed in the controls. For wet single-phase contacts, growth was initially rapid and then decreased with time. No convergence was observed. Fluid inclusions indicate that the contact is not uniformly wetted. The contact is bounded by small regions of high aperture, reflecting local free-face dissolution as the source for the overgrowth. The apparent activation energy is ~125 kJ/mol. Extrapolation predicts rates of contact area increase orders of magnitude faster than in dry, room-temperature and hydrothermal friction experiments, suggesting that natural strength recovery near the base of the seismogenic zone could be dominated by contact overgrowth.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Direct measurement of asperity contact growth in quartz at hydrothermal conditions
DOI 10.1002/2014JB011816
Authors Nicholas M. Beeler, Stephen H. Hickman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Index ID 70041855
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center