Fluid-driven mineral reactions chemically modify enormous portions of the Earth’s crystalline lithosphere. These reactions drive fluid-mediated rock transformation processes that governs the stability of mountain belts, the formation of hydrothermal mineral deposits and the sequestration of anthropogenic CO2 as well as many other processes. I propose that contrary to our current thinking, the re-actions themselves are driven by self-promoting nanoscale transport phenomena.
Existing geological frameworks lack a quantitative understanding of mechanisms that control the rates of reactive fluid-rock interaction. This is because they do not account for the pervasive influence of nanoscale dynamics on the redistribution of elements within geological materials. The nanoEARTH project will solve this by defining the predominant transport processes occurring in mineral nanopores and the dynamic behaviour of fluid-rock interaction.
To achieve the nanoEARTH aims and break through current limitations in our understanding of fluid-rock interaction, I will use my expertise in the multi-scale physics of geological processes. I will combine (1) novel nanoscale experiments that will establish transport mechanisms through natural and synthetic mineral nanopores and (2) unique in operando observations of fluid-driven mineral transformations at multiple length scales with (3) molecular-to continuum-scale transport modelling that is (4) constrained by geological observations.
Through this integrative strategy, I will deliver new knowledge to redefine how the reaction of fluids with minerals self-generates a mode of transport that mobilises elements and controls the rates of fluid-driven transformation. This will impact geoscience research well beyond the project duration and bring the nanoscience of geological processes a quantum-leap forward in defining it as an integral part of solid Earth science.
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