Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences

William Seyfried


443 Tate Hall


George and Orpha Gibson Chair in Earth Systems Sciences


PhD, 1977, University of Southern California


Aqueous Geochemistry Research Group

Research Interests

My main research interests involve assessment of geochemical processes controlling the chemical evolution of aqueous fluids in and on the Earth. Thus, I study mineral dissolution and precipitation processes together with reaction rates of minerals in complex aqueous fluids at a wide range of temperatures and pressures. The approach I emphasize involves experimental and theoretical modeling in conjunction with chemical data from natural systems, especially hydrothermal vent fluids at mid-ocean ridges. Accordingly, field programs have now been carried out at mid-ocean ridges and hydrothermal vent sites in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as at Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming. Although initially focused on inorganic chemical systems, recent experiments have been directed towards organic systems involving microbial metabolism in deep-sea vents and the role of mineral catalysis on hydrocarbon formation in hydrothermal vent fluids. Hydrocarbons synthesized in the hydrothermal experiments not only relate well to modern geochemical and biological systems at mid-ocean ridges, but may also provide clues to the mechanism of formation of even more complex organic molecules in ancient, pre-biotic hydrothermal systems on Earth and elsewhere. In addition to studies of natural hydrothermal systems, experiments are now in the planning stages that involve geochemical processes associated with sequestration of carbon dioxide in subsurface geological formations. This research is conducted in collaboration with Professor Martin Saar and is supported by a major grant from the Department of Energy.



Professional Society Memberships



  • Geochemical Society
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Society of Economic Geologists
  • Geological Society of America


Honors and Awards


  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 2011
  • Geochemical Society Fellow, 2010
  • Fellow, European Association of Geochemistry, 2010


Courses Taught


  • Oceanography
  • Aqueous Geochemistry
  • Geochemical Modeling


Recent Supervised Graduate Theses


  • Peter Scheuermann (present)
  • Drew Syverson (present)
  • Adam Schaen, MS 2014
  • Nick Pester, PhD 2012
  • Mikaella Rough, MS 2011
  • Xi Fu, PhD2006
  • Dionysis Foustoukos, PhD 2005
  • Doug Allen, PhD 2003
  • Jennifer Houghton, PhD 2003
  • Xian Chen, PhD 1998
  • Christian Schardt, MS 1996


Selected Publications


  • Seyfried W. E., Jr., Pester N., and Fu Q. (2010) Phase equilibria controls on the chemistry of vent fluids from hydrothermal systems on slow spreading ridges: Reactivity of plagioclase and olivine solid solutions and the pH-silica connection. In Diversity of Hydrothermal Systems on Slow Spreading Ocean Ridges (ed. P. Rona, C. Davey, J. Dyment, and B. Murton). American Geophysical Monograph.
  • Foustoukos D. I., Pester N. J., Ding K., and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2009) Dissolved carbon species in associated diffuse and focused flow hydrothermal vents at the Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Phase equilibria and kinetic constraints. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 10(10), Q10003.
  • Pan Y. and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2008) Experimental and theoretical constraints on pH measurement with Iridium oxide electrode in aqueous fluids from 25 to 175°C and 25 MPa. Journal of Solution Chemistry 37, 1051-1062.
  • Fu Q., Foustoukos D. I., and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2008) Mineral catalyzed organic synthesis in hydrothermal systems: An experimental study using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35. doi:10.1029/2008GL033389
  • Seyfried W. E., Jr., Foustoukos D. I., and Fu Q. (2007) Redox evolution and mass transfer during serpentinization: An experimental and theoretical study at 200°C, 500 bar with implications for ultramafic-hosted hydrothermal systems at Mid-Ocean Ridges. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71(15), 3872-3886.
  • Foustoukos D. I. and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2007) Phase separation processes in submarine hydrothermal systems: Constraints from experimental and field studies. In Fluid-Fluid Interactions in the Earth's Lithosphere, Vol. 65 (ed. A. Liebscher and C. A. Heinrich), pp. 213-233. Mineralogical Society of America.
  • Kang and Seyfried, W. E., Jr. (2007) In-situ measurement of pH and dissolved H2 in mid-ocean hydrothermal fluids at elevated temperatures and pressures. Chemical Reviews, v. 107, 601-622.
  • Houghton J. L., Seyfried W. E. Jr., Banta A., and Reysenbach A. L. (2006) Continuous enrichment culturing of thermophiles under sulfate and nitrate-reducing conditions and at deep-sea pressures Extremophiles 11(4), 371-382
  • Foustoukos D. and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2005) Redox and pH constraints in the TAG hydrothermal system: 26°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Earth & Planetary Science Letters 235, 497-510.
  • Kump L. R. and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2005) Hydrothermal Fe fluxes during the Precambrian: Effect of low oceanic sulfate concentrations and low hydrostatic pressure on the composition of black smokers. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 235, 654-662.
  • Ding K., Seyfried W. E., Jr., Tivey M. K., Von Damm K. L., Bradley A. M., and Zhang Z. (2005) In-situ pH measurement of hydrothermal fluids at Mid-ocean ridges. Earth & Planetary Science Letters 237, 167-174.
  • Allen D. E. and Seyfried W. E., Jr. (2005) REE controls in MOR hydrothermal systems: An experimental study at elevated temperature and pressure. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 69(3), 675-683. he chemical and isotopic composition of axial vent fluid. In The Hydrology of the Oceanic Crust, Vol. (in-press) (ed. E. Davis and H. Elderfield). Cambridge University Press.


Recent Research Support


  • NSF, In-situ sensors for monitoring the chemistry of hydrothermal fluids: Experimental calibration and field applications
  • NSF, Geochemical Controls on the Composition of Coexisting Vapors and Brines: A Novel Approach to Assess Aqueous Speciation in Subseafloor Hydrothermal Systems
  • NSF, Hydrocarbons in Hydrothermal Vent Fluids: Mineral Catalyzed Meta-stability of Reduced Carbon Compounds at Elevated Temperatures
  • NSF, Effect of Redox and pH on the Reaction Kinetics of Anhydrite in a Coupled Chemical System: An Experimental Study with Implications for Modeling Hydrothermal Vent Fluids at EPR 9°N
  • DOE (CO-PI) An integrated experimental and numerical study: Developing a reaction transport model that couples chemical reactions of mineral dissolution/precipitation with spatial and temporal flow variations in CO2/brine/rock systems
  • NSF, Acquisition and Development of ICP-MS Instrumentation for Ocean Science Research at the University of Minnesota