JGR-Solid Earth: Predicting Homogeneous Bubble Nucleation in Rhyolite

Sahand Hajimirza, Helge M. Gonnermann, James E. Gardner, and Thomas Giachetti
J. Geophys. Res.-Solid Earth 124 (2019) 2395-2416.
Abstract
Bubble nucleation is the critical first step during magma degassing. The resultant number density of bubbles provides a record of nucleation kinetics and underlying eruptive conditions. The rate of bubble nucleation is strongly dependent on the surface free energy associated with nucleus formation, making the use of bubble number density for the interpretation of eruptive conditions contingent upon a sound understanding of surface tension. Based on a suite of nucleation experiments with up to >1016 bubbles per unit volume of melt, and using numerical simulations of bubble nucleation and growth during each experiment, we provide a new formulation for surface tension during homogeneous nucleation of H2O bubbles in rhyolitic melt. It is based on the Tolman correction with a Tolman length of δ = 0.32 nm, which implies an increase in surface tension of bubbles with decreasing nucleus size. Our model results indicate that experiments encompass two distinct nucleation regimes, distinguishable by the ratio of the characteristic diffusion time of water, τdiff, to the decompression time, td. Experiments with >1013 m−3 bubbles are characterized by τdiff/td≪ 1, wherein the nucleation rate predominantly depends on the interplay between decompression and diffusion rates. Nucleation occurs over a short time interval with nucleation rate peaks at high values. For experiments with comparatively low bubble number density the average distance between adjacent bubbles and the diffusion timescale is large. Consequently, τdiff/td≫ 1 and nucleation is nearly unaffected by diffusion and independent of decompression rate, with bubbles nucleating at an approximately constant rate until the sample is quenched.
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