Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 526–538 | Cite as

Permeability and degassing of dome lavas undergoing rapid decompression: An experimental determination

  • Sebastian MuellerEmail author
  • Oleg Melnik
  • Oliver Spieler
  • Bettina Scheu
  • Donald B. Dingwell
Research Article


The gas permeability of volcanic rocks may influence various eruptive processes. The transition from a quiescent degassing dome to rock failure (fragmentation) may, for example, be controlled by the rock’s permeability, in as much as it affects the speed by which a gas overpressure in vesicles is reduced in response to decompression. Using a modified shock-tube-based fragmentation bomb (Alidibirov and Dingwell 1996a,b; Spieler et al. 2003a), we have measured unsteady-state permeability at a high initial pressure differential. Following sudden decompression above the rock cylinder, pressurized gas flows through the sample. Two pressure transducers record the pressure signals above and below the sample. A transient 1D filtration code has been developed to calculate permeability using the experimental decay curve of the lower pressure transducer. Additionally an analytical steady-state method to achieve permeability is presented as an alternative to swiftly predict the sample permeability in a sufficiently precise manner. Over 100 permeability measurements have been performed on samples covering a wide range of porosity. The results show a general positive relationship between porosity and permeability with a high data scatter. Our preferred interpretation of the results is a combination of two different, but overlapping effects. We propose that at low porosities, gas escape occurs predominantly through microcracks or elongated micropores and therefore could be described by simplified forms of Kozeny–Carman relations (Carman 1956) and fracture flow models. At higher porosities, the influence of vesicles becomes progressively stronger as they form an increasingly connected network. Therefore, a model based on the percolation theory of fully penetrable spheres is used, as a first approximation, to describe the permeability-porosity trend. In the data acquired to date it is evident, that in addition to the porosity control, the sample’s bubble size, shape and distribution strongly influence the permeability. This leads to a range of permeability values up to 2.5 orders of magnitude at a given porosity.


Permeability Degassing Porosity Volcanic rocks Decompression Unsteady-state measurements Fragmentation 



The work presented in this paper was partially supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG, Di 431), the EU Project MULTIMO (Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring, Modelling and Forecasting of Volcanic Hazard), the German Ministry for Education and Science (BMBF, Project SUNDAARC) and INTAS-Project 01-0106. The authors would like to thank the members of the magma group at SMPG in Munich for helpful discussions, and Ben Kennedy (McGill University, Montreal) for his contributions and ideas. The paper highly benefit from the comments of M. Manga and an anonymous reviewer.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Mueller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oleg Melnik
    • 2
  • Oliver Spieler
    • 1
  • Bettina Scheu
    • 1
  • Donald B. Dingwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MunichMunich
  2. 2.Institute of MechanicsMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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