Stromatactis cavities in sediments and the role of coarse-grained accessories


Authors: Hladil J, Růžička M, Koptíková L

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 81, issue 2; pages: 123 - 146; Received 31 January 2006; Accepted in revised form 11 April 2006;

Keywords: sedimentation experiments, polydisperse suspensions, stromatactis cavities, crinoid columnals, carbonate sediments,

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The analysis of previous experimental work made on the simulation of stromatactis-like cavities in rapidly settling suspensions of particulate matter substantiates the continuation of experiments toward identifying the conditions of cavity formation. It has been suggested that the most promising directions in this experimental work involve the simplification of complex factors (e.g., variables that derive from the properties of particles and media, as well as the sedimentation dynamics of slurries). Our new hydrodynamic concept of stromatactis formation addresses the traditional key arguments of previous authors on the origins of stromatactis systems. The direct production of stromatactis-type cavities during the sedimentation of fine particulate, polydisperse, multimodal aquatic suspended matter can be characterized in terms of competition between fluids escaping from compressed, diluted domains, and the dynamic effects of the dense packing of solid particles on their boundaries, the latter gradually overtaking from the former, until a middle layer of sediment is sufficiently stabilized and the first internal sedimentation from residual suspensions begins. With the earliest stabilization of the grain-supported, skeleton-like structures in the sediment, low domical but surprisingly stable vaults develop above the cavity zones. Underneath the coalescing arched structures, there often remain places in which grains can still be fluidized, and which consequently enable the further widening of these primary cavities. The specific grain size distribution is derived from natural counterparts, an attribute combined with the high internal friction angle, and increases the final sediment cohesion and stability. This process is particularly effective when highly polydisperse-multimodal sediment materials have highly angular, rugged, or potentially cohesive grains. When the relatively coarsest- and finest-grained fractions are present in increased amounts, the energy dissipation of the dense turbulent slurry is enhanced, and the stromatactis-producing mid-layer is gradually sealed by a relatively impermeable, non-stromatactis, very fine-grained cover in the upper part of the deposit. Two categories of experiments are discussed in this paper. The first is aimed at explaining how moderately large particles can interact with each other. In this category of experiments, moderately graded tridisperse mixtures of angular or highly textured particles tended to produce firmly packed clusters with ensuing domical vaulting above cavities. The second group of experiments is based on combinations of bidisperse mixtures of large grains with polydisperse nearly-unimodal matrices of small angular grains. These two components, if used separately, have close to zero capacity for producing any type of stromatactis-like cavities. However, once they were combined, even modest amounts of these large grains led to the growth of spacious cavity systems, particularly if artificial crinoid columnals were present. The comparison of our experimental results with natural examples suggest that crinoid columnals must be regarded as an important, although not indispensable accelerator of stromatactis cavity production.


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