Variable refractory lithophile element compositions of planetary building blocks: insights from components of enstatite chondrites

Takashi Yoshizaki, Richard D. Ash, Marc D. Lipella, Tetsuya Yokoyama, William F. McDonough

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Available online 8 June 2021



• Refractory lithophile elements (RLE) are fractionated in chondrules from highly reduced enstatite chondrites (EC)
• Nominally lithophile elements (e.g., Ti, Nb, REE) are moderately chalcophile in EC
• A separation of sulfides from silicates before/during EC chondrule formation under reducing conditions led to their fractionated RLE composition
• The EC-dominated Earth models require RLE release from highly reduced sulfides to silicate mantle or condensation of the Earth’s building blocks before a sulfide precipitation
• The silicate Earth lacks a Ti depletion and has an apparent Nb depletion, which might be accounted for the latter’s incorporation into the Earth’s core.”

“Chondrites are sediments of materials left over from the earliest stage of the solar system history. Based on their undifferentiated nature and less fractionated chemical compositions, chondrites are widely considered to represent the unprocessed building blocks of the terrestrial planets and their embryos. Models of chemical composition of the terrestrial planets generally find chondritic relative abundances of refractory lithophile elements (RLE) in the bulk bodies (”constant RLE ratio rule”), based on limited variations of RLE ratios among chondritic meteorites and the solar photosphere. Here, we show that ratios of RLE, such as Nb/Ta, Zr/Hf, Sm/Nd and Al/Ti, are fractionated from the solar value in chondrules from enstatite chondrites (EC). The fractionated RLE ratios of individual EC chondrules document different chalcophile affinities of RLE under highly reducing environments and a separation of RLE-bearing sulfides from silicates before and/or during chondrule formation. In contrast, the bulk EC have solar-like RLE ratios, indicating that a physical sorting of silicates and sulfides was negligible before and during the accretion of EC parent bodies. Likewise, if the Earth’s accretion was dominated by EC-like materials, as supported by multiple isotope systematics, physical sorting of silicates and sulfides in the accretionary disk did not occur. Alternatively, the Earth’s precursors were high-temperature nebular condensates that formed prior to the precipitation of RLE-bearing sulfides. A lack of Ti depletion in the bulk silicate Earth, combined with similar silicate-sulfide and rutile-melt partitioning behaviors of Nb and Ti, prefers a moderately siderophile behavior of Nb as the origin of the accessible Earth’s Nb depletion. Highly reduced planets that have experienced selective removal or accretion of silicates or metal/sulfide phases, such as Mercury, possibly yield fractionated, non-solar bulk RLE ratios.”