Silicon and iron isotopes in components of enstatite chondrites: Implications for metal–silicate–sulfide fractionation in the solar nebulaOPEN ACCESS 

Jinia Sikdar, Harry Becker, Jan A. Schuessler

Version of Record online: 28 June 2023


“Silicon and iron isotope compositions of different physically separated components of enstatite chondrites (EC) were determined in this study to understand the role of nebular and planetary scale events in fractionating Si and Fe isotopes of the terrestrial planet-forming region. We found that the metal–sulfide nodules of EC are strongly enriched in light Si isotopes (δ30Si ≥ −5.61 ± 0.12‰, 2SD), whereas the δ30Si values of angular metal grains, magnetic, slightly magnetic, and non-magnetic fractions become progressively heavier, correlating with their Mg# (Mg/(Mg+Fe)). White mineral phases, composed primarily of SiO2 polymorphs, display the heaviest δ30Si of up to +0.23 ± 0.10‰. The data indicate a key role of metal–silicate partitioning on the Si isotope composition of EC. The overall lighter δ30Si of bulk EC compared to other planetary materials can be explained by the enrichment of light Si isotopes in EC metals along with the loss of isotopically heavier forsterite-rich silicates from the EC-forming region. In contrast to the large Si isotope heterogeneity, the average Fe isotope composition (δ56Fe) of EC components was found to vary from −0.30 ± 0.08‰ to +0.20 ± 0.04‰. A positive correlation between δ56Fe and Ni/S in the components suggests that the metals are enriched in heavy Fe isotopes whereas sulfides are the principal hosts of light Fe isotopes in the non-magnetic fractions of EC. Our combined Si and Fe isotope data in different EC components reflect an inverse correlation between δ30Si and δ56Fe, which illustrates that partitioning of Si and Fe among metal, silicate, and sulfidic phases has significantly fractionated Si and Fe isotopes under reduced conditions. Such isotope partitioning must have occurred before the diverse components were mixed to form the EC parent body. Evaluation of diffusion coefficients of Si and Fe in the metal and non-metallic phases suggests that the Si isotope compositions of the silicate fractions of EC largely preserve information of their nebular processing. On the other hand, the Fe isotopes might have undergone partial or complete re-equilibration during parent body metamorphism. The relatively uniform δ56Fe among different types of bulk chondrites and the Earth, despite Fe isotope differences among their components, demonstrates that the chondrite parent bodies were not formed by random mixing of chondritic components from different locations in the disk. Instead, the chondrite components mostly originated in the same nebular reservoir and Si and Fe isotopes were fractionated either due to gas–solid interactions and associated changes in physicochemical environment of the nebular reservoir and/or during parent body processing. The heavier Si isotope composition of the bulk silicate Earth may require accretion of chondritic and/or isotopically heavier EC silicates along with cumulation of refractory forsterite-rich heavier silicates lost from the EC-forming region to form the silicate reservoir of the Earth.”