Fast, microscale-controlled weathering of rhyolitic obsidian to quartz and alunite

Cuadros J., Afsin B., Michalski J. R., Ardakani M.

Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol.353-354, pp.156-162, 2012 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 353-354
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.08.009
  • Journal Name: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.156-162
  • Keywords: Alunite formation, Quartz formation, Volcanic glass weathering
  • Ondokuz Mayıs University Affiliated: Yes


Six-year experiments of volcanic glass reacting with waters of different chemistry (two freshwaters, seawater and brine) at ~22°C have produced the thorough transformation of mm-size glass chips into quartz, with minor alunite and calcite. These results contradict the current thinking about glass weathering and quartz formation. The reaction from glass to quartz took place at an estimated velocity ranging from 300-2000 times to 10 6 times faster than the accepted values for quartz precipitation, depending on how rates were assessed. The most likely process taking place is the rapid transformation of cation-depleted glass into quartz. In addition, alunite formed very efficiently from low-S glass (40±15ppm). Such effective reaction in the absence of the accepted conditions for alunite formation is attributed to the high Al and K content combined with the generation of low pH conditions at the microscale. Local, low-pH conditions may arise due to proton-for-Na substitution at the earliest stage followed by liberation of the protons as glass later corroded. The surprising results show a new pathway of glass weathering and point towards reactions controlled by microscale conditions producing high activities locally. Such conditions may be common in the mineral-fluid interface with saline waters, immobile waters or systems with low water:rock ratios. The rapid precipitation of quartz at low temperature is relevant to the origin of quartz and the silica budget in a variety of sedimentary environments and prompts their reconsideration. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.