Excess water storage induced by viscous strain localization during high-pressure shear experiment
Strain localization in viscously deformed rocks commonly results in fine-grained shear zones where massive fluid circulation is regularly observed. Recently attributed to strain-induced pumping, this phenomenon may have major implications for the distribution of ores deposits and rock rheology. However, although grain size reduction and/or creep cavitation have been proposed as important processes, the source mechanism of fluid concentration remains unresolved, particularly at high pressure. Here we use secondary ion mass spectrometry to document the H2O content of fine-grained olivine across an experimental shear zone, which developed with grain size reduction during a H2O-saturated shear experiment at 1.2 GPa and 900 °C. Through data interpolation, the olivine matrix reveals high fluid concentrations where shear strain is localized. These concentrations far exceed the predicted amount of H2O that grain boundaries can contain, excluding grain size reduction as a unique source of water storage. Instead, we show that H2O increases per unit of grain boundary across the shear zone, suggesting that cavitation and “healing” processes compete with each other to produce a larger pore volume with increasing strain rate. This provides an alternative process for fluids to be collected where strain rate is the highest in deep shear zones.