Trace elements in IVA iron meteorites explained by limited solid–liquid equilibration during inward solidification

Zhongtian Zhang

Available online 7 November 2023, 115860


“Iron meteorites are windows into the formation and evolution of planetesimal cores. The trace element compositions of IVA iron meteorites are enigmatic; specifically, to explain the fractionations of different elements requires various sulfur contents of the parent liquid. Here, we propose a possible solution to this problem. IVA irons are thought to sample an exposed core that underwent inward solidification. In an inward solidifying core, sulfur-rich liquids expelled by crystallization are buoyant and stably stratified in the interstices of the mushy solidification front, until they eventually solidify at the eutectic point. Solidification proceeds through in-situ dendritic crystallization of mushy parcels of identical compositions, with the absence of chemical fractionation. In order for fractionation to take place, “pristine” liquids must flow into the mushy front and react with solids, which would be possible if circulation is driven by external forcing, for example, collisions. In this picture, the fluid exchange (which enables fractionation) is driven by occasional events, and each incremental solid can react with only a limited amount of liquid during solidification. We develop a simple model to describe the fractionation associated with this limited solid–liquid equilibration. With this model, we can explain the concentrations of different elements satisfactorily with a single sulfur content (~5 wt%) of the IVA iron parent liquid. Assuming that the stirring is caused by collisions to the solidifying body, we combine the new model for element fractionation with a model for solidification (as a Stefan problem) to suggest a frequency on the order of once per few thousand years for collisions large enough to cause the required stirring.”