An experimental study of the brittle-ductile transition of basalt at oceanic crust pressure and temperature conditions

Abstract : The brittle to ductile transition (BDT) in rocks may strongly influence their transport properties (i.e., permeability, porosity topology ...) and the maximum depth and temperature where hydrothermal fluids may circulate. To examine this transition in the context of Icelandic crust, we conducted deformation experiments on a glassy basalt (GB) and a glass-free basalt (GFB) under oceanic crust conditions. Mechanical and micro-structural observations at a constant strain rate of 10(-5) s(-1) and at confining pressure of 100-300 MPa indicate that the rocks are brittle and dilatant up to 700-800 degrees C. At higher temperatures and effective pressures the deformation mode becomes macroscopically ductile, i.e., deformation is distributed throughout the sample and no localized shear rupture plane develops. The presence of glass is a key component reducing the sample strength and lowering the pressure of the BDT. In the brittle field, strength is consistent with a Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion with an internal coefficient of friction of 0.42 for both samples. In the ductile field, strength is strain rate-and temperature-dependent and both samples were characterized by the same stress exponent in the range 3 < n < 4.2 but by very different activation energy Q(GB) = 59 +/- 15 KJ/mol and Q(GFB) = 456 +/- 4 KJ/mol. Extrapolation of these results to the Iceland oceanic crust conditions predicts a BDT at similar to 100 degrees C for a glassy basalt, whereas the BDT might occur in non-glassy basalts at deeper conditions, i.e., temperatures higher than 550 +/- 100 degrees C, in agreement with the Icelandic seismogenic zone.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:18:07 PM
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Marie Violay, Benoit Gibert, David Mainprice, Brian Evans, Jean-Marie Dautria, et al.. An experimental study of the brittle-ductile transition of basalt at oceanic crust pressure and temperature conditions. Journal of Geophysical Research, American Geophysical Union, 2012, 117, pp.B03213. ⟨10.1029/2011JB008884⟩. ⟨hal-00760905⟩



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