Effect of silicon on trace element partitioning in iron-bearing metallic melts

Nancy L. Chabot, Trevor M. Safko, William F. Mcdonough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract- Despite the fact that Si is considered a potentially important metalloid in planetary systems, little is known about the effect of Si in metallic melts on trace element partitioning behavior. Previous studies have established the effects of S, C, and P, nonmetals, through solid metal/liquid metal experiments in the corresponding Fe binary systems, but the Fe-Si system is not appropriate for similar experiments because of the high solubility of Si in solid metal. In this work, we present the results from 0.1 MPa experiments with two coexisting immiscible metallic liquids in the Fe-S-Si system. By leveraging the extensive available knowledge about the effect of S on trace element partitioning behavior, we explore the effect of Si. Results for 22 trace elements are presented. Strong Si avoidance behavior is demonstrated by As, Au, Ga, Ge, Sb, Sn, and Zn. Iridium, Os, Pt, Re, Ru, and W exhibit weak Si avoidance tendencies. Silicon appears to have no significant effect on the partitioning behaviors of Ag, Co, Cu, Cr, Ni, Pd, and V, all of which had similar partition coefficients over a wide range of Si liquid concentrations from Si-free to 13 wt%. The only elements in our experiments to show evidence of a potentially weak attraction to Si were Mo and Rh. Applications of the newly determined effects of Si to problems in planetary science indicate that (1) The elements Ni, Co, Mo, and W, which are commonly used in planetary differentiation models, are minimally affected by the presence of Si in the metal, especially in comparison to other effects such as from oxygen fugacity. (2) Reduced enstatite-rich meteorites may record a chemical signature due to Si in the metallic melts during partial melting, and if so, elements identified by this study as having strong Si avoidance may offer unique insight into unraveling the history of these meteorites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243-1257
Number of pages15
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Aug
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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