Serpentinization is a metamorphic process by which rocks low in silica, mainly peridotites, are transformed by oxidation into serpentinites.

Among other minor causes, serpentinization occurs when masses of ferromagnetic rock subjected to high pressures from the depths of the Earth's mantle begin to ascend towards the crust by the impulse of tectonic phenomena and collide with masses of water that infiltrate them (as a result of the reduction in density derived from the change in pressure), giving rise to a very significant increase in volume (between 30 and 40 %) and to processes of hydrolysis in which the original structure of the rock changes.

The process generates large amounts of hydrogen (H2) and is highly exothermic, causing temperature increases that can exceed 250º C.

The large amount of Hydrogen that is produced in the serpentine process has led to it being studied as a highly effective form of energy generation that is compatible with the conservation of the environment, since not only does it not cause carbon emissions, but it also leads to the reduction of the surrounding carbonates and sulphates, consuming CO2, which is why it is also being used to get rid of the main producer of the greenhouse effect, by storing it in the depths of the earth.

The energy generated in the process of serpentining one cubic meter of rock reaches approximately 660,000,000 Joules, enough to keep a 100-watt domestic light bulb on for about 80 days.

Hydrothermal Chimenea

On the other hand, the production of hydrogen in the absence of atmospheric air (anaerobic conditions) generates Methane (CH4) and Sulphuric Acid (H2S) which in turn give rise to the formation of hydrothermal sources in which chemical organisms develop, so the most modern theories of evolution associate this process with the emergence of life on earth.

The name Serpentinization comes from the type of textures that the peridotites acquire after suffering this type of process, since originally having a uniform aspect, they go on to be crossed by veins of very different textures and colors that are due to the occupation and transformation of different compounds in the interior of the conduits through which the water infiltrated, acquiring an aspect that sometimes resembles that of the skin of a snake.

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