Skip to content

Crystallisation in basaltic magmas revealed via in situ 4D synchrotron X-ray microtomography

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • M. Polacci
  • F. Arzilli
  • G. La Spina
  • N. Le Gall
  • B. Cai
  • M. E. Hartley
  • D. Di Genova
  • N. T. Vo
  • S. Nonni
  • R. C. Atwood
  • E. W. Llewellin
  • P. D. Lee
  • M. R. Burton
Original languageEnglish
Article number8377
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 14 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 30 May 2018


Magma crystallisation is a fundamental process driving eruptions and controlling the style of volcanic activity. Crystal nucleation delay, heterogeneous and homogeneous nucleation and crystal growth are all time-dependent processes, however, there is a paucity of real-time experimental data on crystal nucleation and growth kinetics, particularly at the beginning of crystallisation when conditions are far from equilibrium. Here, we reveal the first in situ 3D time-dependent observations of crystal nucleation and growth kinetics in a natural magma, reproducing the crystallisation occurring in real-time during a lava flow, by combining a bespoke high-temperature environmental cell with fast synchrotron X-ray microtomography. We find that both crystal nucleation and growth occur in pulses, with the first crystallisation wave producing a relatively low volume fraction of crystals and hence negligible influence on magma viscosity. This result explains why some lava flows cover kilometres in a few hours from eruption inception, highlighting the hazard posed by fast-moving lava flows. We use our observations to quantify disequilibrium crystallisation in basaltic magmas using an empirical model. Our results demonstrate the potential of in situ 3D time-dependent experiments and have fundamental implications for the rheological evolution of basaltic lava flows, aiding flow modelling, eruption forecasting and hazard management.

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (final published version)

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Scientific Reports at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 3 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups