The Potassium Isotopic Composition of CI Chondrites and the Origin of Isotopic Variations among Primitive Planetary Bodies

Piers Koefoed, Jean-Alix Barrat, Olga Pravdivtseva, Conel M. O’D. Alexander, Katharina Lodders, Ryan Ogliore, Kun Wang

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 11 August 2023


“The isotopic analysis of moderately volatile elements such as K have gained significant interest in recent years as they possess the potential to help us better understand solar system formation. Even so, the precise K isotopic composition of CI chondrites, the most chemically primitive chondrite, has remained elusive. As the K elemental composition of CI chondrites matches well with the solar photosphere, it is possible that their K isotopic composition represents the solar system initial value. Here, we investigate the CI chondrite K isotopic composition in order to determine the precise CI chondrite, and thus possibly solar system initial, δ41K value. In addition, we investigate the K isotope compositions of several other chondrite groups, evaluate all available chondrite K isotope data together, and use these data along with data from a range of other isotope systems to assess if nucleosynthetic variations, volatility related processes, or parent body processes can best explain the range of isotope variations. The δ41K composition of all nine CI chondrite pieces analyzed in this study show limited variation, ranging from −0.29‰ to −0.17‰. When combined with the previous CI analysis, an overall mean CI δ41K value of −0.21 ± 0.05‰ (2SE) is obtained. This K isotope composition is distinct from the Bulk Silicate Earth value of −0.43 ± 0.17‰ (2SD), heavier than almost all other chondrite groups, and may represent the solar system initial K isotope composition. When comparing all chondrites broadly, ordinary chondrites show the lightest mean K isotope composition of −0.76 ± 0.06‰ (H = −0.71 ± 0.12‰, L = −0.77 ± 0.04‰, LL = −0.81 ± 0.12‰), enstatite chondrites the middle composition of −0.39 ± 0.11‰ (EH = −0.34 ± 0.05‰, EL = −0.45 ± 0.20‰), and carbonaceous chondrites the heaviest composition of −0.31 ± 0.08‰. For the carbonaceous chondrite groups CK (−0.42 ± 0.11‰), CR (−0.46 ± 0.05‰), and CV (−0.38 ± 0.07‰) chondrites show lighter δ41K compositions compared to CO (−0.20 ± 0.10‰), CM (−0.23 ± 0.11‰), and CI (−0.21 ± 0.05‰) chondrites. When these K isotope group averages are compared against the averages for other mass-dependent moderately volatile element isotope systems (δ87Rb, δ66Zn, δ71Ga, δ128Te) and mass-independent isotope systems (ε54Cr, ε64Ni, ε50Ti, Δ17O, ε40K, and ε66Zn,), a range of correlations are observed. Across all chondrite groups δ41K shows correlations with δ87Rb, δ66Zn, and δ71Ga, and correlations with ε54Cr, ε64Ni, ε50Ti, ε40K, and ε66Zn. When comparing the CCs only, correlations are observed between δ41K and all four of the other moderately volatile elements assessed, while the mass-independent isotope systems show no strong correlations. Regarding the K isotope variations, these observations, along with other textural and chemical data, can be best explained by inherited isotopic variations form different precursor reservoirs (the cause of which is difficult to conclusively determine, though most likely related to the NC-CC dichotomy), and volatility related fractionation processes for the carbonaceous chondrite groups (most likely due to component mixing).”