> > Exploring Geochemistry in the Classroom Using MELTS Computational Tools

Access the Program from the MELTS Homepage
This webpage was created for SERC by Heather Rissler and Aleshia Mueller in consultation with Mark Ghiorso, V.P., OFM Research Inc.

The Dataset

MELTS is a software package designed to facilitate thermodynamic modeling of phase equilibria in magmatic systems. Users can compute equilibrium phase relations for igneous systems over the temperature range 500-2000 °C and the pressure range 0-2 GPa.

Use and Relevance

Pillow Basalts from the south Pacific seafloor; Image from NOAA.
Examining the structure of the solid Earth is important for understanding phenomena such as electromagnetic fields and plate tectonics. MELTS computational tools allow scientists to model igneous processes using data in a way that would not normally be accessible by direct inspection of the raw data. The data that scientitsts typically examine using melts include compositions of liquids and solids that are coexisting under known expermimental conditions of temperature, pressure, and oxidation states. Scientists use MELTS tools to examine questions such as how the Earth melt along a pressure-temperature path defined by an adiabatic temperature gradient (where the total heat content of the system remains the same as the material moves up through the Earth's changing pressure). MELTS can be used to test diverse scenarios ranging from examining how much sulfur a volcanoes gives off, which has implications to climate change, to understanding and predicting how the Earth melts.

Use in Teaching

This tool can be used to teach the following topics and skills in petrology and geochemistry:
AFM graph showing equilibrium crystallization of Mid-Ocean Ridge Basalt at a constant pressure over a temperature range of 50 degrees;from MELTS manual.

Topics

  • Mineralogy
  • Thermodynamics
  • Mineral composition and properties of igneous rocks (including plutonic and volcanic rocks)
  • Composition of materials and compositional variation
  • Composition of the Earth's mantle and crust

Skills

  • Interpreting phase diagrams
  • Understanding how melting can drive compositional changes in the materials making up the Earth's crust and mantle
  • Using forward modelling to examine crystal fractionation
  • Using forward modelling to examine equilibrium crystallization
  • Performing experiments on a computer using compositional data from scientific literature
  • Using modelling to understand how temperature, pressure, and oxidation states of a system impact the crystallization of igneous rocks
  • Understanding how subltle variations in mineral content, including presence of water, can impact modelling scenarios of material compositional changes (eg. the fractionation of basalt into rhiolite)

Exploring the Data

Data Type and Presentation

Accessing the Data

Manipulating Data and Creating Visualizations

Data can be displayed as graphs, tables, or phase diagrams.

Tools for Data Manipulation

About the Data

Collection Methods

Limitations and Sources of Error

MELTS is intended for modeling magmatic phase relations at low pressure (< 2 GPa). It is better calibrated in mafic systems and should work especially well for MORBs and alkalic mafic magmas. Phase equilibria involving hornblende and biotite are not modeled well by the MELTS package and consequently simulating the evolution of intermediate to silica-rich calc-alkaline systems is not recommended. MELTS results are only as good as the underlying experimental data source so make sure you are working from a reliable dataset.

References and Resources

Education Resources that Use this Dataset

Other Related Scientific References

Citing Use of the Dataset

  • The following references should be cited for results from using MELTS:
    • Ghiorso, Mark S., and Sack, Richard O. (1995) Chemical Mass Transfer in Magmatic Processes. IV. A Revised and Internally Consistent Thermodynamic Model for the Interpolation and Extrapolation of Liquid-Solid Equilibria in Magmatic Systems at Elevated Temperatures and Pressures. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology,, 119, 197-212.
    • Asimow PD, Ghiorso MS (1998) Algorithmic Modifications Extending MELTS to Calculate Subsolidus Phase Relations. American Mineralogist 83, 1127-1131.
  • The following references should be cited for results from using pMELTS:

Related Links