Constraints on the rheology of the partially molten mantle from numerical models of laboratory experiments
Abstract:One of the fundamental components in any dynamical model of melt transport is the rheology of partially molten rock. This rheology is poorly understood, and one way in which a better understanding can be obtained is by comparing the results of laboratory deformation experiments to numerical models. Here we present a comparison between numerical models and the laboratory setup of Qi et al. 2013 (EPSL), where a cylinder of partially molten rock containing rigid spherical inclusions was placed under torsion. We have replicated this setup in a finite element model which solves the partial differential equations describing the mechanical process of compaction. These computationally-demanding 3D simulations are only possible due to the recent development of a new preconditioning method for the equations of magma dynamics.
The experiments show a distinct pattern of melt-rich and melt-depleted regions around the inclusions. In our numerical models, the pattern of melt varies with key rheological parameters, such as the ratio of bulk to shear viscosity, and the porosity- and strain-rate-dependence of the shear viscosity. These observed melt patterns therefore have the potential to constrain rheological properties. While there are many similarities between the experiments and the numerical models, there are also important differences, which highlight the need for better models of the physics of two-phase mantle/magma dynamics. In particular, the laboratory experiments display more pervasive melt-rich bands than is seen in our numerics.