Brittle-viscous deformation cycles at the base of the seismogenic zone in the continental crust
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The main goal of the study was to determine the dynamical cycle of ductile-brittle deformation and to characterise the fluid pathways at different scales of a brittle-viscous fault zone active at the base of the seismogenic crust. Object of analysis are samples from the sinistral strike-slip fault zone BFZ045 from Olkiluoto (SW Finland), located at the site of a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. Combined microstructural analysis, electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), and mineral chemistry were applied to reconstruct the variations in pressure, temperature, fluid pressure, and differential stress that mediated deformation and strain localization along BFZ045 across the BDTZ. Ductile deformation took place at 400-500° C and 3-4 kbar, and recrystallized grain size piezometry for quartz document a progressive increase in differential stress during mylonitization, from ca. 50 MPa to ca. 120 MPa. The increase in differential stress was localised towards the shear zone center, which was eventually overprinted by brittle deformation in a narrowing shear zone. Cataclastic deformation occurred under lower T conditions down to T ≥ 320° C and was not further overprinted by mylonitic creep. Porosity estimates were obtained through the combination of x-ray micro-computed tomography (µCT), mercury intrusion porosimetry, He pycnometry, and microstructural analysis. Low porosity values (0.8-4.4%) for different rock type, 2-20 µm pore size, representative of pore connectivity, and microstructural observation suggest a relationship to a dynamical cycle of fracturing and sealing mechanism, mostly controlled by ductile deformation. Similarly, the observation from fracture orientation analysis indicates that the mylonitic precursor of BFZ045 played an important role in the localization of the brittle deformation. This thesis highlights that the ductile-brittle deformation cycle in BFZ045 was controlled by transient oscillations in fluid pressure in a narrowing shear zone deforming at progressively higher differential stress during cooling.