Highly siderophile elements in Earth, Mars, the moon, and asteroids

TitleHighly siderophile elements in Earth, Mars, the moon, and asteroids
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsDay JMD, Brandon AD, Walker RJ
JournalReviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry
Date Published2016/01

The highly siderophile elements (HSE: Os, Ir, Ru, Rh, Pt, Pd, Re, Au) are key tracers of planetary accretion and differentiation processes due to their affinity for metal relative to silicate. Under low-pressure conditions the HSE are defined by having metal–silicate partition coefficients in excess of 104 (e.g., Kimura et al. 1974; Jones and Drake 1986; O’Neill et al. 1995; Borisov and Palme 1997; Mann et al. 2012). The HSE are geochemically distinct in that, with the exception of Au, they have elevated melting points relative to iron (1665 K), low vapour pressures, and are resistant to corrosion or oxidation. Under solar nebular conditions, Re, Os, Ir, Ru, Rh, and Pt, along with the moderately siderophile elements (MSE) Mo and W, condense as refractory-metal alloys. Palladium and Au are not as refractory and condense in solid solution with FeNi metal (Palme 2008). Assuming abundances of the HSE in materials that made up the bulk Earth were broadly similar to modern chondrite meteorites, mass balance calculations suggest that >98% of these elements reside in the metallic core (O’Neill and Palme 1998). In practical terms, the resultant low HSE abundance inventories in differentiated silicate crusts and mantles enables the use of these elements in order to effectively track metallic core formation and the subsequent additions of HSE-rich impactors to planets and asteroids (Fig. 1). In detail, the absolute and relative abundances of the HSE in planetary materials are also affected by mantle and crustal processes including melting, metasomatism, fractional crystallization, and crust-mantle remixing, as well as later impact processing, volatility of Re under oxidizing conditions, and low-temperature secondary alteration (cf., Day 2013; Gannoun et al. 2016, this volume). In the absence of metal, the HSE are chalcophile, so these elements are also affected by processes.

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