Metal compositions of carbonaceous chondrites

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FeNi metals represent an important fraction of chondritic components that remains relatively unexplored within most carbonaceous chondrite groups. The compositions of these metals can place constraints on the nature of their precursor materials as well as the physicochemical conditions of chondrule formation. In this study, we have analyzed the major, minor and trace element compositions of metal grains from relatively unaltered carbonaceous chondrites NWA 801 (CR), Leoville (CV3.1), Paris (CM2.9), Maribo (CM2.8) and Bells (CM-an). We observe a predominant and constant sub-solar Co/Ni ratio of CR, CM and CM-an metal grains. In Ni versus Co space, the metal grains fall below modelled curves for equilibrium condensation of metals from a solar gas. From Ni versus Cr plots, we infer that Paris (and possibly Leoville) metal grains could have maintained a primary condensation signature, although for most grains, condensation must have occurred under disequilibrium conditions. CR and isolated CM-an metals mostly fall outside of the predicted condensation fields. Based on metal-silicate partition coefficients of Ni and Co that vary with pressure, we interpret their Co/Ni signatures as having a planetary origin, with presumable extraction by impact jetting. Considering that almost all CM and CR metal grains have the same Co/Ni ratio, we cannot rule out a planetary origin for CM metal grains. We relate the highly siderophile element (HSE) patterns of carbonaceous chondrite metal to mixing and subsequent equilibration of refractory metal nuggets (RMN), FeNi alloys and silicate chondrule precursors. As with the Co/Ni ratios, the HSE patterns of CM, CM-an, CR and CV metal grains are nearly identical, suggesting that the abundance and nature of the metal precursor materials were similar for carbonaceous chondrites. The overall volatility patterns of CV, CM and CR chondrites, suggest that the latter form under more oxidizing conditions than CV chondrites. The volatility patterns of Paris metal grains overlap with CV and CR chondrule metals, implying variable P-T-fO2 conditions during CM chondrule formation. Finally, we comment on the origin of metal grains in various petrological settings. Chondrule rim and isolated metal grains are likely derived and expelled from the equilibrated core metal and were subsequently altered to include and re-equilibrate with materials from the disk. Trace element analyses of the anomalous CM chondrite Bells metal grains show potential relationships with CM chondrite and CH chondrite metal for the chondrule cores and isolated grains, respectively. Small metal grains from CM chondrite Maribo, which are located in the chondrite matrix, potentially have distinct volatility patterns from CR and Paris isolated grains, hinting at a distinct origin for small metal grains and large chondrule-derived metal. Future work on carbonaceous chondrite metal should include an investigation of small (micron scale) versus large isolated metal grains.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Pages (from-to)52-77
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Chondrites, Chondrule formation, LA-ICPMS, Metal

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