(Nature Publishing Group, 2017-07-14)
Lamadrid, Hector; Rimstidt, J. Donald; Schwarzenbach, Esther M.; Klein, Frieder; Ulrich, Sarah; Dolocan, Andrei; Bodnar, Robert J.
The hydrothermal alteration of mantle rocks (referred to as serpentinization) occurs in submarine environments extending from mid-ocean ridges to subduction zones. Serpentinization affects the physical and chemical properties of oceanic lithosphere, represents one of the major mechanisms driving mass exchange between the mantle and the Earth’s surface, and is central to current origin of life hypotheses as well as the search for microbial life on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In spite of increasing interest in the serpentinization process by researchers in diverse fields, the rates of serpentinization and the controlling factors are poorly understood. Here we use a novel in situ experimental method involving olivine micro-reactors and show that the rate of serpentinization is strongly controlled by the salinity (water activity) of the reacting fluid and demonstrate that the rate of serpentinization of olivine slows down as salinity increases and H2O activity decreases.