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Lab-scale ash production by abrasion and collision experiments of porous volcanic samples

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume302
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)163-172
Publication statusPublished
Early online date14/07/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In the course of explosive eruptions, magma is fragmented into smaller pieces by a plethora of processes before and during deposition. Volcanic ash, fragments smaller than 2 mm, has near-volcano effects (e.g. increasing mobility of PDCs, threat to human infrastructure) but may also cause various problems over long duration and/or far away from the source (human health and aviation matters). We quantify the efficiency of ash generation during experimental fracturing of pumiceous and scoriaceous samples subjected to shear and normal stress fields. Experiments were designed to produce ash by overcoming the yield strength of samples from Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), Sicily and Lipari Islands (Italy), with this study having particular interest in the < 355 μm fraction. Fracturing within volcanic conduits, plumes and pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) was simulated through a series of abrasion (shear) and collision (normal) experiments. An understanding of these processes is crucial as they are capable of producing very fine ash (< 10 μm). These particles can remain in the atmosphere for several days and may travel large distances (~ 1000s of km). This poses a threat to the aviation industry and human health. From the experiments we establish that abrasion produced the finest-grained material and up to 50% of the generated ash was smaller than 10 μm. In comparison, the collision experiments that applied mainly normal stress fields produced coarser grain sizes. Results were compared to established grain size distributions for natural fall and PDC deposits and good correlation was found. Energies involved in collision and abrasion experiments were calculated and showed an exponential correlation with ash production rate. Projecting these experimental results into the volcanic environment, the greatest amounts of ash are produced in the most energetic and turbulent regions of volcanic flows, which are proximal to the vent. Finest grain sizes are produced in PDCs and can be observed as co-ignimbrite clouds above density currents. Finally, a significant dependency was found between material density and the mass of fines produced, also observable in the total particle size distribution: higher values of open porosity promote the generation of finer-grained particles and overall greater ratios of ash. While this paper draws on numerous previous studies of particle comminution processes, it is the first to analyze and compare results of several comminution experiments with each other in order to characterize these mechanisms.