DOI: 10.1029/2023jb027124 ISSN:

Percolation of low‐dimensional water at crystalline interfaces mediates fluid migration in subducting slabs

Meng Chen, Runliang Zhu, Jianxi Zhu, Hongping He
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


During subduction, metamorphic dehydration reactions in the downgoing slab release fluids, generating fluid overpressure. It has been suggested that fluid is driven to flow upward by buoyancy, but a sufficiently high permeability allowing formation of a fluid percolation network is required. Traditionally, fluid percolation has been identified based on the textural equilibrium assumption by measuring the dihedral angle at the triple junction of grains. According to this theory, grain boundaries generally cannot be infiltrated by fluid, and only the grain edge can form a fluid flow channel. We argue that this theory is insufficient because we have found that water from fluid can be adsorbed into the crystalline interface, i.e., a layered mineral interlayer, a crack, or a grain boundary. The high pressure in a subducting slab drives water adsorption into the crystalline interface, forming a low‐dimensional fluidic phase, and thus fluid percolation is achieved. Because water adsorbed in the interface is fluidic, water diffusion drives fluid transport in the subducting slab. Due to water adsorption, fluid overpressure at the dehydration front may release, so that dehydration embrittlement may be excluded. Stable water adsorption in the subduction‐slab conditions is determined here by combining molecular dynamics simulations and thermodynamic calculations. Analysis based on simulations shows that water adsorption requires crystalline surfaces which do not support hydrogen bonds well.

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