New evidence from high-resolution computer tomography of deformed rocks helps us to understand how fluids move in the Earth's crust in 10-20km depth.
The research, published in Nature today, results from collaboration between The University of Western Australia, the CSIRO and the Argonne National Laboratory in the United States of America and iVEC, the WA supercomputer program.
Two researchers from UWA's School of Earth and Environment, lead author Research Fellow Dr Florian Fusseis, and co-author and Premier's Fellow Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, directed the project.
The paper, titled Creep cavitation can establish a dynamic granular fluid pump in ductile shear zones, presents evidence for a mechanism by which fluids are pumped through a system of minute pores in rocks that experience a slow but steady deformation.
The findings help to establish a continuous supply chain between deep crustal sources and the upper crustal formation of mineral deposits. They also give critical clues for the initial triggering of earthquakes.