Decompression times reported in previous studies suggest that thoroughly brittle fragmentation is unlikely in actual explosive volcanic eruptions. What occurs in practice is brittle-like fragmentation, which is defined as the solid-like fracture of a material whose bulk rheological properties are close to those of a fluid. Through laboratory experiments and numerical simulation, the link between the inhomogeneous structure of bubbles and the development of cracks that may lead to brittle-like fragmentation was clearly demonstrated here. A rapid decompression test was conducted to simulate the fragmentation of a specimen whose pore morphology was revealed by X-ray microtomography. The dynamic response during decompression was observed by high-speed photography. Large variation was observed in the responses of the specimens even among specimens with equal bulk rheological properties. The stress fields of the specimens under decompression computed by finite element analysis shows that the presence of satellite bubbles beneath a large bubble induced the stress concentration. On the basis of the obtained results, a new mechanism for brittle-like fragmentation is proposed. In the proposed scenario, the second nucleation of bubbles near the fragmentation surface is an essential process for the advancement of fragmentation in an upward magma flow in a volcanic conduit.
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