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Serpentinization is a geological low-temperature and metamorphic process involving heat and water in which low-silica mafic and ultramafic rocks are oxidized and hydrolyzed with water into serpentinite. Peridotite, including dunite, at and near the seafloor and in mountain belts is converted to serpentine, brucite, magnetite, and other minerals -- some rare, such as awaruite (Ni3Fe), and even native iron. In the process large amounts of water are absorbed into the rock increasing the volume and destroying the structure.
The density changes from 3.3 to 2.7 g/cm3 with a concurrent volume increase of about 40%. The reaction is exothermic and large amounts of heat energy are produced in the process.
Rock temperatures can be raised by about 260 oC, providing an energy source for formation of non-volcanic hydrothermal vents. The magnetite-forming chemical reactions produce hydrogen gas. Sulfates and carbonates are reduced and form methane and hydrogen sulfide. The hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide provide energy sources for deep sea chemotroph microorganisms.
Originally posted by watch_the_rocks
Would the water boil? Or is the pressure down there too great to allow that?
Scientists say they have witnessed the possible birth of a future ocean basin growing in north-eastern Ethiopia.
The team watched an 8m rift develop in the ground in just three weeks in the Afar desert region last September.
It is one small step in a long-term split that is tearing the east of the country from the rest of Africa and should eventually create a huge sea.
The UK-Ethiopian group says it was astonished at the speed with which the 60km-long fissure system developed.