Shedding new light on volcanoes: real time synchrotron x-ray tomography of magmatic phenomena

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

Volcanic eruptions are powered by magma. To predict their occurrence the models require an in depth understand and quantitative description of the flow properties of magma during transport and eruption. However, there are many properties of magma we still don't fully understand... What causes magma to ascend and erupt? How does magma flow? Will it erupt as a benign effusion or as a catastrophic explosive event? How long will eruptions last? All these are vital questions to the 10% of the global population that lives in the vicinity of an active volcano.

The magmas that drive these volcanic systems are complex liquids that carry variable amounts of both solid crystals and gas bubbles. It is these crystal and bubble cargos and the interactions between them that control how magma behaves, i.e. whether it will flow or blow. Generally, the more crystalline a magma, the more difficult it is to flow and the more likely it will break; similarly, the more bubbly a magma, the more likely it will blow. Understanding the interactions between the liquid, crystals and bubbles is key to understanding magma behaviour, forming one of the grand challenge of volcanology.

At present experimental studies performed to develop models of magma storage (at depth) and volcanic processes (near/at the Earth surface) have been limited by the fact that traditional methods do not allow us to observe what is happening inside the sample during a test. The technology we propose will transform this, giving us the 3D X-ray glasses needed to see into magmatic flow. This will be done using the UK's synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, combined with an experimental rig that can heat, contain, and flow magma whilst ultra-high speed CAT scans are taken to see in side it. This is called 4D imaging - 3D plus time.

This equipment will enable volcanologists to experimentally deform magma whilst quantifying the interaction between liquid, crystals and bubbles in real-time. The data produced will provide a greatly enhanced understanding of these processes, providing the information needed by other groups to produce detailed new models. This will shed new light on volcanoes, improving our ability to constrain magmatic processes and forecast volcanic eruption.

Planned Impact

This project is technology led, and the first major impact with be the development and validation of a world leading capability. However, it will go beyond producing a novel technology to demonstrate its impact on the research community using two key applications. Therefore, the first group to benefit from the technology developments are the magmatic and volcanic research communities. They will be provided with the tools and methodologies to observe the 3D evolution of microstructures taking place in real time during magmatic processes. This will undoubtedly provide new insight into magmatic processes and advance our understanding of volcanic phenomena. Engagement with the appropriate academic audiences is therefore of critical importance. Engagement with the major research groups working in this area has already been initiated by the investigators, and will be maintained throughout the project by dissemination of information by: articles in the Volcanic & Magmatic Study Group (VMSG) and IAVCEII newsletters that together reach over 1500 international volcanic and magmatic researchers, a project website and an open workshop, in addition to traditional academic publications.

In the longer term, the new technology has the potential to have a significant impact from a wider societal and economic perspective, as over 10% of the world's population lives in the vicinity of an active volcano. Any advancement in our understanding and prediction of volcanic eruptions directly affects of all these people, our second group of beneficiaries. Realising and generating long term societal and economic impact for this group will require the uptake of the technology by the research community. The improved understanding of magma transport they will achieve through this the platform will feed new, more robust and accurate volcanic forecasting models. These models are crucial to the third group of beneficiaries: the decision makers (local and national government, NGO, charitable and other agencies) that develop and implement disaster management and evacuation plans that mitigate local impact on those directly effected, and those decision makers using global climate models to plan for planning more indirect effects such as the wider international impact on food production and transportation needs following of major eruptions (CO2, SO2, and volcanic ash).

In the short term, all of the investigators will be actively involved with outreach and engagement activity promoting STEM and geoscience subjects to the general public at open days, school visits, etc. Such engagement helps inspire and motivate future scientists, and increases general societal scientific awareness.

In terms of a wider scientific perspective, the increase in functionality of the in situ rig and 4D imaging techniques has applications in almost all areas of engineering and materials science, providing a wide scientific benefit well beyond the area of magmatic studies.

Publications

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Farquharson J (2016) Evidence for the development of permeability anisotropy in lava domes and volcanic conduits in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research

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Godinho J (2016) The dynamic nature of crystal growth in pores in Scientific Reports

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Holness MB (2018) How deceptive are microstructures in granitic rocks? Answers from integrated physical theory, phase equilibrium, and direct observations. in Contributions to mineralogy and petrology. Beitrage zur Mineralogie und Petrologie

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Holness MB (2018) Melt segregation from silicic crystal mushes: a critical appraisal of possible mechanisms and their microstructural record. in Contributions to mineralogy and petrology. Beitrage zur Mineralogie und Petrologie

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Holness MB (2019) Magma chambers versus mush zones: constraining the architecture of sub-volcanic plumbing systems from microstructural analysis of crystalline enclaves. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Nicoli G (2018) Microstructural evidence for crystallization regimes in mafic intrusions: a case study from the Little Minch Sill Complex, Scotland. in Contributions to mineralogy and petrology. Beitrage zur Mineralogie und Petrologie

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/M013561/1 01/06/2015 31/05/2018 £405,921
NE/M013561/2 Transfer NE/M013561/1 01/06/2018 30/11/2018 £89,338
 
Description An in situ rig (the P2R) which was designed to allow synchrotron x-ray imaging and diffraction of aerospace materials during their manufacture was adapted to heat, pressurise and compress molten magma, simulating conditions of magma rising from 3km down to surface eruption in a volcano. The rig was successfully used to investigate the behaviour of samples from a range of magma from Basalts to Rhyolites , providing new insights into their behaviour. These insights were gained by taking tomograms (or very high resolution CAT scans) ever few seconds allowing the evolution of different phases to be tracked during non-equilibrium conditions.

We have discovered that the application of strain can massively accelerate vesiculation. The rig led to new funding via a NSFGeo/NERC grant DisEquilibrium, and through joint use of the grant a wide range of additional key insights have been elucidated.
Exploitation Route The in situ synchrotron x-ray equipment and analysis techniques developed can be used by a wide range of researchers both in the field of volcanology, and in many other areas of earth sciences through to engineering. We hope these findings will help us better forecast eruption behaviour, aiding hazard assessment.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

 
Description NSFGEO-NERC Quantifying disequilibrium processes in basaltic volcanism
Amount £1,669,550 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N018575/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 08/2021
 
Description 2016 Royal Society Summer Exhibition: 4D Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This exhibition on "4D Science" highlighted how we've used 4D synchrotron X-ray tomography to solve a range of challenges from materials science to geology to food stuffs. Highlights included replicating the flow of magma to better understand volcanic eruptions, to the coarsening of ice crystals to understand why some ice cream tastes better. 16,000 visitors came to the week long exhibition. The Lee group led the work, together with Diamond Light Source, the Lavallee group at Liverpool, the Research Complex at Harwell, and Unilever.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/summer-science-exhibition/exhibits/4d-science/
 
Description 2018 TMS Annual Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PDL Invited speaker, presented on 'Solidification of magma: from crystal growth to bubble formation'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.tms.org/tms2018
 
Description 4th International Congress on 3D Materials Science (3DMS 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Rafael Torres Orozco exhibited/presented poster on 'Real-time Synchrotron Imaging of Silicic Magma Degassing: Insights into Bubble Nucleation and Growth Kinetics during Controlled Heating'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.tms.org/3dms2018
 
Description Cities on Volcanoes 10 Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Torres-Orozco , 'New constraints on vesiculation kinetics in rhyolitic magma degassing from 4D synchrotron microtomography and novel particle-tracking during controlled heating: Implications for eruptive style and intensity'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.citiesonvolcanoes10.com/
 
Description Diamond Open Days and School Visit Days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Diamond Light Source holds both regular open days for the general public, and also separate days for school visits. Being based in the RCaH, my group regularly sets up one stand or posters as part of many activities. Demonstrations included 3D printing demonstrations, a lego working replica of a tomography beamline, and examples of how tomography is used to research problems in multiple length scales e.g. from looking inside bioactive implants to looking inside a battery during discharge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.diamond.ac.uk/Public/VisitUs.html
 
Description EGU General Assembly 2018: 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Arzilli, Fabio et al; "Rapid growth of plagioclase: implications for basaltic Plinian eruption", EGU General Assembly 2018: , Abstract No. EGU2018-13431.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2018/session/26574
 
Description Invited Talk, The 11th International Conference on Magnesium Alloys and their Applications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker, presented on 'Revealing Zn's Influence on the Solidification
Morphology of Mg Alloys via 4D Synchrotron Tomography'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.mg2018.org/
 
Description Invited Talk, Ultrafast X-ray Studies on Dynamic Irrepressible Process 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk, Lee, presented on 'Capturing ultra-fast phenomena during materials processing'. Beijing, Workshop on Ultra-fast dynamic processes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Keynote Speaker, Goldschmidt2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote speaker, Le gall , on 'Tracing magma degassing using experimental approaches' iGoldschmidt 2018 Conf.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://goldschmidt.info/2018/
 
Description MechEng Night: For The Love of Engineering 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of Research in our group to the general public in a London West End Theatre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://mecheng.ucl.ac.uk/events/for-the-love-of-engineering/
 
Description Popular science talk to the Richmond Scientific Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a talk to 40 members of the Richmond Scientific Society and general public on "4D Science: how we use synchrotron x-ray glasses to see inside a volcano (and other materials).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Royal Society Satelitte Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This exhibit showed how we've used 4D synchrotron X-ray tomography of magma to better understand volcanic eruptions, and of ice crystals, to work out why some ice cream tastes better! This was a repeat of the summer exhibition held outside London as part of Manchester Science Festival, nearly 13, 000 visitors came over the 5 day exhibition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/science-exhibition-manchester/
 
Description ToScA 2018 - RMS 6th annual Tomography for Scientific Advancement (ToScA) symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote talk, Lee,, ' In situ and operando synchrotron tomographic characterisation of semi-solid processing' at 6th annual Tomography for Scientific Advancement (ToScA) symposium , Royal Microscopical Society
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.rms.org.uk/discover-engage/event-calendar/tosca-2018.html
 
Description UKRI Research Infrastructures Roadmap Workshop: Physical Sciences and Engineering (PS&E) Sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PDL participated in workshop (implementing policy)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019