Formation of refractory metal nuggets and their link to the history of CAIs

D. Schwander, L. Kööp, T. Berg, G. Schönhense, P.R. Heck, A.M. Davis, U. Ott

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 17 July 2015


Ca, Al-rich inclusions (CAIs) often contain numerous refractory metal nuggets (RMNs), consisting of elements like Os, Ir, Mo, Pt and Ru. The nuggets are usually thought to have formed by equilibrium condensation from a gas of solar composition, simultaneously with or prior to oxide and silicate minerals. However, the exact mechanisms responsible for their extremely variable compositions, small sizes and associations with CAI minerals remain puzzling. Expanding on previous work on chemically separated RMNs, we have studied a large number of RMNs within their host CAIs from three different meteorite types, i.e., the highly primitive chondrite Acfer 094, Allende (CV3ox) and Murchison (CM2). Our results show several inconsistencies between the observed features and a direct condensation origin, including a lack of correlated abundance variations in the refractory metals that is expected from variations in condensation temperature. Instead, we show that most RMN features are consistent with RMN formation by precipitation from a CAI liquid enriched in refractory metals. This scenario is additionally supported by the common occurrence of RMNs in CAIs with clear melt crystallization textures as well as the occurrence of synthetic RMNs with highly variable compositions in run products from Schwander et al. (2015). In some cases, the sizes of meteoritic RMNs correlate with the sizes of their host minerals in CAIs, which indicates common cooling rates.