Ultra-refractory metal assemblages in calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions: Probes of the inner solar protoplanetary disk

Tarunika Ramprasad, Venkateswara Rao Manga, Laura B. Seifert, Prajkta Mane, Thomas J. Zega

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Available online 25 April 2024


“Calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) are the first formed solids in our solar system. Information regarding their formation and alteration is imprinted within their crystal structures, and so analysis of CAIs can provide insight into the early stages of solar system formation. Here we report on micrometer-sized metal grains that occur inside of fluffy type A (FTA) CAIs in the NWA 8323 and Leoville CV3 chondrites. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) shows that the ultra-refractory metal assemblages contain subhedral grains of alloys of Pt, Os, Ir, Ru, Fe, Ni, and Mo with minor amounts of oxides and silicates inclusions and are crystalline. These assemblages occur in melilite and are surrounded by or adjacent to spinel and perovskite. TEM analysis shows that the majority of the alloys present in the assemblages are significantly enriched in Pt-group elements, with compositions of 75 wt % Pt in some Fe-Ni-Pt grains, and >90 wt % Pt-group elements in Os-Ir-Ru grains. Electron diffraction shows that the alloys occur predominantly in a hexagonal (HCP) structure, with a minority of the grains exhibiting cubic (FCC) and tetragonal lattices. To support these findings, we present a thermodynamic model for the formation of hexagonal (HCP) and cubic (BCC and FCC) ultra-refractory alloys. We use an Fe-Os-Ir ternary system to approximate the various compositions and crystal structures observed in the metal grains. Modeling results indicate a condensation temperature for the alloys as high as 1831 K (HCP, 10−4 bar), placing them well above those predicted for the major CAI phases that surround them. Based on the spatial relationships of the refractory metal grains to their host CAIs, our thermodynamic predictions, and prevailing astrophysical models of the solar protoplanetary disk, the data imply that the grains could have formed inward of the regions where CAI materials condensed. We hypothesize that the refractory metal grains were transported radially outward to the part of the disk where CAIs formed and provided a nucleation site for the condensation of CAI phases such as melilite, hibonite, perovskite, and spinel.”