Evaporation of moderately volatile elements from metal and sulfide melts: Implications for volatile element abundances in magmatic iron meteorites

E.S. Steenstra, C.J. Renggli, J. Berndt, S. Klemme

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 622, 15 November 2023, 118406


“Volatile element abundances in magmatic iron meteorites provide fundamental insights into the processing of volatile elements in the early solar system. Although Cu, Ge and Ag concentrations of magmatic iron meteorites deviate up to 4 orders of magnitude between different magmatic iron meteorite groups, the role of evaporation on these volatile abundances is poorly constrained. Here, we experimentally assess the volatility of Cu, Ge, Ag, S, Cr, Co, Ni, Mo, Ru, Pd, W, Re and Ir from metal and sulfide melts as a function of pressure (10−4 and 1 bar), temperature (1573–1823 K) and time (5–120 min) for two end-member compositions (Fe versus FeS). These novel experiments demonstrate that the presence of S is a major parameter in establishing the volatility of Cu, Ge, Mo, Ag, Ru, W, Re and Ir. At constant P-T and time, the volatility of Ge, Mo, Ru, W, Re and Ir is greatly increased in the presence of S, whereas Cu and Ag are less volatile in the presence of S. At 1773 K and ∼0.001 bar, the volatility of S is sufficiently high that the degassed FeS liquid showed immiscibility of a S-rich sulfide and a S-poor Fe melt. Empirical equations were derived that predict the evaporative loss of Cu, Ge, Mo, Ag from Fe and/or FeS liquid as a function of temperature and time. A comparison of the newly derived volatility sequences with commonly applied 50% condensation temperature models shows that the condensation temperature models cannot be applied to sulfur-bearing Fe liquids and therefore to magmatic iron meteorites. Application of the new models on previously derived elemental depletions in the IVB parent body shows that evaporation, if it occurred, cannot have taken place under S-rich conditions. The latter would result in a depletion of Mo, which is not observed for the IVB irons. However, evaporation of a S-free or S-poor Fe liquid reproduces the observed volatility depletion trend for IVB irons under a wider range of temperature and evaporation times, demonstrating the potential importance of evaporative loss on the IVB parent body.”