Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magma And Volcanoes: Physicists Explain Dance Marathon Of Wispy Feature In Roiling Fluids

Date:
February 6, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Theoretical physicists are suggesting how thin spouts of magma in the Earth's mantle can persist long enough to form hotspot volcanism of the type that might have created the Hawaiian Islands.

University of Chicago physicists Wendy Zhang (left) and Laura Schmidt explain a feature of convecting fluids that colleagues have observed in laboratory experiments. The feature may help explain how hotspot volcanism created the Hawaiian Islands and other such landforms.
Credit: Dan Dry

Theoretical physicists at the University of Chicago are suggesting how thin spouts of magma in the Earth's mantle can persist long enough to form hotspot volcanism of the type that might have created the Hawaiian Islands.

Their calculations also apply to tendrils only a few inches long that form in convecting fluids under laboratory conditions. University of Chicago graduate student Laura Schmidt and Wendy Zhang, an Assistant Professor in Physics, will detail their findings in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

The work was inspired by laboratory experiments conducted by Anne Davaille in France that mimic, in a simplified way, convecting bubbles of magma as they might look deep beneath the Earth's surface. "This is one robust feature of thermal convection," Zhang said.

"It's a useful thing to know because it's the kind of thing that happens in all sorts of different industries, in all sorts of different contexts." These include oil extraction, the chemical industry and in certain biotechnological applications.

Earth scientists also have theorized that mantle plumes form on a regional scale in the Earth's interior, sometimes breaking the surface to form small landmasses, including Hawaii and Iceland. Nevertheless, debate swirls around how, or even if, mantle plumes can account for such surface features.

Geophysicists often liken a pot of boiling water as a smaller, more rapid version of the convection that takes place in the mantle, the layer of Earth that lies between the surface crust and its core. But unlike a pot of water, the Earth's interior consists of layers with different properties.

In laboratory experiments, Anne Davaille, a geophysicist at the University of Paris 7, studies convection in a small tank by heating two layers of colored liquids of differing densities. She observed the formation and persistence of thin tendrils between the layers, which correspond to subsurface plumes measuring scores of miles across.

"It seems so thin and tenuous, how could it possibly manage to hold itself in place over time as everything else is going on around it?" Zhang asked. "Somehow, they manage to hold themselves together."

The tendrils persist for hours, even as experimental conditions change. "These tendrils have fluid flowing through them, and it starts to mix the two layers," Schmidt said. "When the two layers mix, then the viscosity of the layers changes as well."

Following a series of visits to Davaille's lab, Schmidt and Zhang sought to mathematically explain the phenomenon.

"When you look at the shape of these very thin tendrils, there's something very striking that Anne noticed right away," Zhang said. The tendrils seem to emerge from flow lines that resemble the flared-out end of a trumpet. This trumpet shape marked the location of a stagnation point. Both Davaille's experiments and Schmidt's calculations agree: The thinnest tendrils that persist have a stagnation point.

Schmidt had seen a similar stagnation point in experiments she conducted in the laboratory of Sidney Nagel, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. Those experiments involved unmixable fluids, such as water and oil, instead of the fresh water and salt water mixing in Davaille's laboratory.

Nevertheless, the experimental similarities provided Schmidt and Zhang insights that helped solve the problem. In previous studies, other theoreticians suggested how large flows might rise through the tendrils from the base of the hot spots, Schmidt said. She and Zhang approached the problem differently.

"We include the effect of the stagnation point," Schmidt explained. "Our tendrils are really a thin skin or thin layer of the surface between the fluids that is drawn up. It's not a bulk flow going up through the tendril."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Magma And Volcanoes: Physicists Explain Dance Marathon Of Wispy Feature In Roiling Fluids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130113059.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2008, February 6). Magma And Volcanoes: Physicists Explain Dance Marathon Of Wispy Feature In Roiling Fluids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130113059.htm
University of Chicago. "Magma And Volcanoes: Physicists Explain Dance Marathon Of Wispy Feature In Roiling Fluids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130113059.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Magic Leap isn't publicizing much more than a description of its product, but it’s been enough for Google and others to invest more than $500M. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins