Iron and nickel isotope fractionation by diffusion, with applications to iron meteorites

Heather C. Watson, Frank Richter, Ankun Liu, Gary R. Huss

Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 451, 1 October 2016, Pages 159-167


• New experimental measurement of diffusive isotopic fractionation in Fe–Ni alloys.
• Measured fractionation factor is close to previously assumed or predicted values.
• Applications to constraining cooling rates of iron meteorites.
• Adds to database of isotope fractionation factors in Earth and planetary materials.”

“Mass-dependent, kinetic fractionation of isotopes through processes such as diffusion can result in measurable isotopic signatures. When these signatures are retained in geologic materials, they can be used to help interpret their thermal histories. The mass dependence of the diffusion coefficient of isotopes 1 and 2 can be written as (D1/D2)=(m2/m1)β(D1/D2)=(m2/m1)β, where D1D1 and D2D2 are the diffusion coefficients of m1m1 and m2m2 respectively, and β is an empirical coefficient that relates the two ratios. Experiments have been performed to measure β in the Fe–Ni alloy system. Diffusion couple experiments between pure Fe and Ni metals were run in a piston cylinder at 1300–1400 °C and 1 GPa. Concentration and isotopic profiles were measured by electron microprobe and ion microprobe respectively. We find that a single β coefficient of β=0.32±0.04β=0.32±0.04 can describe the isotopic effect in all experiments. This result is comparable to the isotope effect determined in many other similar alloy systems. The new β coefficient is used in a model of the isotopic profiles to be expected during the Widmanstätten pattern formation in iron meteorites. The results are consistent with previous estimates of the cooling rate of the iron meteorite Toluca. The application of isotopic constraints based on these results in addition to conventional cooling rate models could provide a more robust picture of the thermal history of these early planetary bodies.”