Formation of reduced carbonaceous matter in basalts and xenoliths: Reaction of C-O-H gases on olivine crack surfaces

  • Tingle T
  • Hochella M
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It has been suggested that the formation of reduced carbonaceous matter in basalts and mantle xenoliths occurs by heterogeneous reaction of volcanic gas on fresh, chemically active crack surfaces produced by thermal stresses during eruption and cooling. This hypothesis is supported by experiments at400-800°C on {010} surfaces of San Carlos olivine exposed to C-O-H gases generated by the decomposition of oxalic acid and oxalic acid dihydrate. Carbonaceous films form readily on these surfaces and achieve thicknesses comparable to those observed in natural samples (a few nanometers) in a matter of minutes. At relatively oxidizing conditions, the carbonaceous films consist principally of C-C and C-H bonded species with lesser amounts of C-O bonded species. At relatively reducing conditions, the carbonaceous films consist of subequal amounts of C-C/C-H, C-O and metal-C species. Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and other thermally labile organic species are associated with carbonaceous films in some natural samples but none were detected in experimental samples from this study, leaving open the question of abiotic synthesis of organic matter on crack surfaces in basalts. Regardless, it is clear from the preliminary experiments reported here that crack surfaces in olivine (and probably other silicate minerals and glasses) are capable of stabilizing compounds that otherwise would not be stable in cooling lava. © 1993.

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  • Tracy N. Tingle

  • Michael F. Hochella

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