Geophysical Research Letters

Electrical conductivity of magnetite-bearing serpentinite during shear deformation



[1] Electrical conductivity of serpentinite with various amounts of magnetite was measured during shear deformation at high pressure and temperatures (P = 1.0 GPa, T = 750 K) corresponding to mantle wedge conditions to evaluate the contribution of aligned magnetite to the bulk conductivity of serpentinite. Under hydrostatic conditions, the sample conductivity considerably increases when the magnetite volume fraction exceeds 25% in volume, suggesting the presence of the percolation threshold for magnetite interconnection. During shear deformation, the conductivity for the samples with less than 25 vol.% magnetite increased by an order of magnitude or higher with increasing shear strain up to 9, which is likely a result of the clustering or realignment of magnetite grains in the serpentinites. However, activation enthalpy was nearly constant before and after deformation experiments, suggesting that shear deformation is unlikely to enhance establishment of interconnection of magnetite. Consequently, more than 25 vol.% magnetite is needed to establish connectivity of magnetite in serpentinite. On the other hand, the conductivity of serpentinite with low volume fraction of magnetite (5%), which is typical concentration of natural serpentinites, is almost similar to that of magnetite-free serpentinites. The present results show that the interconnection of magnetite in serpentinites by shear deformation is not expected as an origin of the high conductivity anomaly occasionally observed at the slab interface in the mantle wedge. The origin of high conductivity, therefore, indicates the presence of aqueous fluid with high salinity rather than the magnetite interconnection.