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Molecular controls on Cu and Zn isotopic fractionation in Fe–Mn crusts

DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.04.021 DOI Help

Authors: Susan Little (University of Bristol) , David Sherman (University of Bristol) , D. Vance (University of Bristol) , J.r. Hein (U.S. Geological Survey, 400 Natural Bridges Dr., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Earth And Planetary Science Letters , VOL 396 , PAGES 213 - 222

State: Published (Approved)
Published: June 2014
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 6316

Abstract: The isotopic systems of the transition metals are increasingly being developed as oceanic tracers, due to their tendency to be fractionated by biological and/or redox-related processes. However, for many of these promising isotope systems the molecular level controls on their isotopic fractionations are only just beginning to be explored. Here we investigate the relative roles of abiotic and biotic fractionation processes in controlling modern seawater Cu and Zn isotopic compositions. Scavenging to Fe–Mn oxides represents the principal output for Cu and Zn to sediments deposited under normal marine (oxic) conditions. Using Fe–Mn crusts as an analogue for these dispersed phases, we investigate the phase association and crystal chemistry of Cu and Zn in such sediments. We present the results of an EXAFS study that demonstrate unequivocally that Cu and Zn are predominantly associated with the birnessite (δ -MnO2) phase in Fe–Mn crusts, as previously predicted from sequential leaching experiments (e.g., Koschinsky and Hein, 2003). The crystal chemistry of Cu and Zn in the crusts implies a reduction in coordination number in the sorbed phase relative to the free metal ion in seawater. Thus, theory would predict equilibrium fractionations that enrich the heavy isotope in the sorbed phase (e.g., Schauble, 2004). In natural samples, Fe–Mn crusts and nodules are indeed isotopically heavy in Zn isotopes (at ∼1‰ ) compared to deep seawater (at ∼0.5‰ ), consistent with the predicted direction of equilibrium isotopic fractionation based on our observations of the coordination environment of sorbed Zn. Further, ∼50% of inorganic Zn′ is chloro-complexed (the other ∼50% is present as the free Zn2+ ion), and complexation by Cl− is also predicted to favour equilibrium partitioning of light Zn isotopes into the dissolved phase. The heavy Zn isotopic composition of Fe–Mn crusts and nodules relative to seawater can therefore be explained by an inorganic fractionation during uptake. However, Cu in Fe–Mn crusts is isotopically light (at ∼0.3 to 0.5‰) compared to the dissolved phase in seawater (at ∼0.9‰ ). We suggest that this is because dissolved Cu in the oceans is overwhelmingly complexed to strong organic ligands, which are better competitors for the heavy isotope.

Journal Keywords: Copper; Zinc; Isotopes; Fe?Mn Crusts; EXAFS;Organic Ligands

Subject Areas: Environment


Instruments: I18-Microfocus Spectroscopy

Other Facilities: Mp