An experimental study of grain scale melt segregation mechanisms in two common crustal rock types



Creation of pathways for melt to migrate from its source is the necessary first step for transport of magma to the upper crust. To test the role of different dehydration-melting reactions in the development of permeability during partial melting and deformation in the crust, we experimentally deformed two common crustal rock types. A muscovite-biotite metapelite and a biotite gneiss were deformed at conditions below, at and above their fluid-absent solidus. For the metapelite, temperatures ranged between 650 and 800 °C at Pc=700 MPa to investigate the muscovite-dehydration melting reaction. For the biotite gneiss, temperatures ranged between 850 and 950 °C at Pc=1000 MPa to explore biotite dehydration-melting under lower crustal conditions. Deformation for both sets of experiments was performed at the same strain rate (ε.) 1.37×10−5 s−1. In the presence of deformation, the positive ΔV and associated high dilational strain of the muscovite dehydration-melting reaction produces an increase in melt pore pressure with partial melting of the metapelite. In contrast, the biotite dehydration-melting reaction is not associated with a large dilational strain and during deformation and partial melting of the biotite gneiss melt pore pressure builds more gradually. Due to the different rates in pore pressure increase, melt-enhanced deformation microstructures reflect the different dehydration melting reactions themselves. Permeability development in the two rocks differs because grain boundaries control melt distribution to a greater extent in the gneiss. Muscovite-dehydration melting may develop melt pathways at low melt fractions due to a larger volume of melt, in comparison with biotite-dehydration melting, generated at the solidus. This may be a viable physical mechanism in which rapid melt segregation from a metapelitic source rock can occur. Alternatively, the results from the gneiss experiments suggest continual draining of biotite-derived magma from the lower crust with melt migration paths controlled by structural anisotropies in the protolith.