The influence of carbon, sulfur, and silicon on trace element partitioning in iron alloys

Friday, 19 December 2014
Jian Han, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, United States, James A Van Orman, Case Western Reserve Univ, Cleveland, OH, United States, Katherine L Crispin, Geophysical Laboratory, Washington, DC, United States and Richard D Ash, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States
Non-metallic light elements are important constituents of planetary cores and have a strong influence on the partitioning behavior of trace elements. Planetary cores may contain a wide range of non-metallic light elements, including H, N, S, P, Si, and C. Under highly reducing conditions, such as those that are thought to have pertained during the formation of Mercury’s core, Si and C, in addition to sulfur, may be particularly important constituents. Each of these elements may strongly effect and have a different impact on the partitioning behavior of trace elements but their combined effects on trace element partitioning have not been quantified. We investigated the partitioning behavior of more than 25 siderophile trace elements within the Fe-S-C-Si system with varying concentrations of C, S, and Si. The experiments were performed under pressures varying from 1 atm to 2 GPa and temperatures ranging from 1200˚C to 1450˚C. All experiments produced immiscible liquids, one enriched in Si and C, and the other predominantly FeS. We found some highly siderophile elements including Os, Ru, Ir, and Re are much more enriched in Fe-Si-C phase than in Fe-S phase, whereas other trace elements like V, Co, Ag, Hf, and Pb are enriched in S-rich phase. However, not all the trace elements enriched in Fe-Si-C phase are repelled by sulfur. Elements like Re and Ru could have different partitioning trends if sulfur concentration in S-rich phase rises. The partitioning behavior of these trace elements could enhance our understanding of the differentiation of Mercury’s core under oxygen-poor conditions.