Magma yield stress and permeability: Insights from multiphase percolation theory

Stuart D C Walsh, Martin O. Saar

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Magmas often contain multiple interacting phases of embedded solid and gas inclusions. Multiphase percolation theory provides a means of modeling assemblies of these different classes of magmatic inclusions in a simple, yet powerful way. Like its single phase counterpart, multiphase percolation theory describes the connectivity of discrete inclusion assemblies as a function of phase topology. In addition, multiphase percolation employs basic laws to distinguish separate classes of objects and is characterized by its dependency on the order in which the different phases appear. This paper examines two applications of multiphase percolation theory: the first considers how the presence of bubble inclusions influences yield stress onset and growth in a magma's crystal network; the second examines the effect of bi-modal bubble-size distributions on magma permeability. We find that the presence of bubbles induces crystal clustering, thereby 1) reducing the percolation threshold, or critical crystal volume fraction, φ{symbol}c, at which the crystals form a space-spanning network providing a minimum yield stress, and 2) resulting in a larger yield stress for a given crystal volume fraction above φ{symbol}c. This increase in the yield stress of the crystal network may also occur when crystal clusters are formed due to processes other than bubble formation, such as heterogeneous crystallization, synneusis, and heterogeneity due to deformation or flow. Further, we find that bimodal bubble size distributions can significantly affect the permeability of the system beyond the percolation threshold. This study thus demonstrates that larger-scale structures and topologies, as well as the order in which different phases appear, can have significant effects on macroscopic properties in multiphase materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1019
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • continuum percolation
  • lava
  • magma
  • multiphase materials
  • permeability
  • yield stress

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