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Bagdassarov, Nikolai and Dingwell, Donald B. (1992): A rheological investigation of vesicular rhyolite. In: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Vol. 50, No. 3: pp. 307-322 [PDF, 1MB]

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The rheology of vesiculating rhyolitic systems exerts a strong control on the transport of silicic magmas in the subvolcanic to volcanic environments. We present here an investigation of vesiculating and vesiculated rhyolites using dilatometric methods. This study examines the effect of vesicle content on the viscosity of a natural supercooled rhyolitic liquid with 0–70% vesicles.

The experimental samples of rhyolitic glass are derived from fusion of a natural obsidian from Little Glass Butte, Oregon. Crystal-free rhyolite glasses of varying porosity were prepared by fusing obsidian powder in a Pt crucible. Differing porosities were obtained by varying the temperature (1300—1650°C) and duration (0.5–6 h) of the fusions. Cylindrical samples of the resulting vesiculated rhyolites were cored from the crucible using diamond tools and their ends were ground flat and parallel for dilatometry. The porosity of each sample was determined from Archimedean buoyancy density determinations and comparison with bubble-free rhyolite (2.331 g/cm3, porosity = 1 - p/po). The density of foamed samples was determined using their mass, volume and regular geometry.

Viscosities were determined in the parallel plate mode at stresses of 5 × 103 to 105 Pa. The viscosimeter was calibrated using NBS 711 glass. The bubble contents were microscopically investigated using a video-reflected light system and image analysis software. Distribution functions of the size, orientation, aspect ratio and surface porosity were obtained.

The viscosity of rhyolite decreases with increasing bubble content. A general relationship of the form: η(|) = η(0)/(1 + C|), describes the effect of porosity, | (in volume fraction) on the viscosity, η, where C is a dimensionless constant (= 22.4 ± 2.9) and log10η(0) = 10.94 ± 0.04 Pa s at 850°C.

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