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

S. H. Little*, D. M. Sherman, D. Vance, J. R. Hein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)

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 (delta-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 similar to 1 parts per thousand) compared to deep seawater (at similar to 0.5 parts per thousand), consistent with the predicted direction of equilibrium isotopic fractionation based on our observations of the coordination environment of sorbed Zn. Further, similar to 50% of inorganic Zn' is chloro-complexed (the other similar to 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 similar to 0.3 to 0.5 parts per thousand) compared to the dissolved phase in seawater (at 0.9 parts per thousand). 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. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume396
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2014

Keywords

  • copper
  • zinc
  • isotopes
  • Fe-Mn crusts
  • EXAFS
  • organic ligands
  • FERROMANGANESE OXIDE DEPOSITS
  • METAL SORBED BIRNESSITE
  • X-RAY-DIFFRACTION
  • NORTH PACIFIC
  • SURFACE COMPLEXATION
  • HEXAGONAL-BIRNESSITE
  • COPPER COMPLEXATION
  • DISSOLVED COPPER
  • MANGANESE OXIDES
  • ORGANIC-LIGANDS

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