Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 162, Issue 5, pp 929–943 | Cite as

Bubble nucleation in rhyolite and dacite melts: temperature dependence of surface tension

  • James E. Gardner
  • Richard A. Ketcham
Original Paper


Surface tension (σ) profoundly influences the ability of gas bubbles to nucleate in silicate melts. To determine how temperature impacts σ, experiments were carried out in which high-silica rhyolite melts with 5 wt% dissolved water were decompressed at temperatures that ranged from 775 to 1,085°C. Decompressions were also carried out using dacite melts with 4.3 wt% dissolved water at 1,150°C. Water bubbles nucleated in rhyolite only when decompressions exceeded 95 MPa at all temperatures. Bubbles nucleated in number densities that increased as decompression increased and at hotter temperatures at a given amount of decompression. After correcting decompression amounts for temperature differences, values for σ were estimated from nucleation rates and found to vary between 0.081 and 0.093 N m−1. Surface tension decreases as temperature increases from 775 to 875°C, but then increases as temperature increases to 1,085°C. Those values overlap previous results, but only when melt viscosity is less than 104 Pa s. For low-viscosity rhyolite, there is a strong correlation of σ with temperature, in which σ increases by 6.9 × 10−5 N m−1 C−1. That variation is robust for 5–9 wt% dissolved water, as long as melt viscosity is ≤104 Pa s. More viscous rhyolite deviates from that correlation probably because nucleation is retarded in stiffer melts. Bubbles nucleated in dacite when decompressions exceeded 87 MPa, and occured in one or more events as decompression increased. Surface tension is estimated to be 0.083 (±0.001) N m−1 and when adjusted for temperature agrees well with previous results for colder and wetter dacite melts. At a given water content, dacite melts have lower surface tensions than rhyolite melts, when corrected to a fixed temperature.


Bubble Nucleation Rhyolite Dacite Kinetics Temperature 



We thank Giovanni Sosa for analyzing the glasses for their major-element compositions. Reviews by Alain Burgisser and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript. This project was partially funded by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (EAR-0738664). CT work was aided by the NSF-EAR Facility Support program (grants EAR-0646848 and EAR-0948842).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of GeosciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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