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Pringle, EA, Moynier F, Savage PS, Jackson MG, Moreira M, Day JMD.  2016.  Silicon isotopes reveal recycled altered oceanic crust in the mantle sources of Ocean Island Basalts. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 189:282-295.   10.1016/j.gca.2016.06.008   AbstractWebsite

The study of silicon (Si) isotopes in Ocean Island Basalts (OIB) has the potential to discern between different models for the origins of geochemical heterogeneities in the mantle. Relatively large (∼several per mil per atomic mass unit) Si isotope fractionation occurs in low-temperature environments during biochemical and geochemical precipitation of dissolved Si, where the precipitate is preferentially enriched in the lighter isotopes relative to the dissolved Si. In contrast, only a limited range (∼tenths of a per mil) of Si isotope fractionation has been observed from high-temperature igneous processes. Therefore, Si isotopes may be useful as tracers for the presence of crustal material within OIB mantle source regions that experienced relatively low-temperature surface processes in a manner similar to other stable isotope systems, such as oxygen. Characterizing the isotopic composition of the mantle is also of central importance to the use of the Si isotope system as a basis for comparisons with other planetary bodies (e.g., Moon, Mars, asteroids).

Here we present the first comprehensive suite of high-precision Si isotope data obtained by MC-ICP-MS for a diverse suite of OIB. Samples originate from ocean islands in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean basins and include representative end-members for the EM-1, EM-2, and HIMU mantle components. On average, δ30Si values for OIB (−0.32 ± 0.09‰, 2 sd) are in general agreement with previous estimates for the δ30Si value of Bulk Silicate Earth (−0.29 ± 0.07‰, 2 sd; Savage et al., 2014). Nonetheless, some small systematic variations are present; specifically, most HIMU-type (Mangaia; Cape Verde; La Palma, Canary Islands) and Iceland OIB are enriched in the lighter isotopes of Si (δ30Si values lower than MORB), consistent with recycled altered oceanic crust and lithospheric mantle in their mantle sources.

Pringle, EA, Moynier F, Savage PS, Badro J, Barrat JA.  2014.  Silicon isotopes in angrites and volatile loss in planetesimals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 111(48):17029–17032.   10.1073/pnas.1418889111   Abstract

Inner solar system bodies, including the Earth, Moon, and asteroids, are depleted in volatile elements relative to chondrites. Hypotheses for this volatile element depletion include incomplete condensation from the solar nebula and volatile loss during energetic impacts. These processes are expected to each produce characteristic stable isotope signatures. However, processes of planetary differentiation may also modify the isotopic composition of geochemical reservoirs. Angrites are rare meteorites that crystallized only a few million years after calcium–aluminum-rich inclusions and exhibit extreme depletions in volatile elements relative to chondrites, making them ideal samples with which to study volatile element depletion in the early solar system. Here we present high-precision Si isotope data that show angrites are enriched in the heavy isotopes of Si relative to chondritic meteorites by 50–100 ppm/amu. Silicon is sufficiently volatile such that it may be isotopically fractionated during incomplete condensation or evaporative mass loss, but theoretical calculations and experimental results also predict isotope fractionation under specific conditions of metal–silicate differentiation. We show that the Si isotope composition of angrites cannot be explained by any plausible core formation scenario, but rather reflects isotope fractionation during impact-induced evaporation. Our results indicate planetesimals initially formed from volatile-rich material and were subsequently depleted in volatile elements during accretion.

Pringle, EA, Savage PS, Jackson MG, Barrat JA, Moynier F.  2013.  Si isotope homogeneity of the Solar Nebula. The Astrophysical Journal. 779:123-127.   10.1088/0004-637X/779/2/123   Abstract

The presence or absence of variations in the mass-independent abundances of Si isotopes in bulk meteorites provides important clues concerning the evolution of the early solar system. No Si isotopic anomalies have been found within the level of analytical precision of 15 ppm in 29Si/28Si across a wide range of inner solar system materials, including terrestrial basalts, chondrites, and achondrites. A possible exception is the angrites, which may exhibit small excesses of 29Si. However, the general absence of anomalies suggests that primitive meteorites and differentiated planetesimals formed in a reservoir that was isotopically homogenous with respect to Si. Furthermore, the lack of resolvable anomalies in the calcium–aluminum-rich inclusion measured here suggests that any nucleosynthetic anomalies in Si isotopes were erased through mixing in the solar nebula prior to the formation of refractory solids. The homogeneity exhibited by Si isotopes may have implications for the distribution of Mg isotopes in the solar nebula. Based on supernova nucleosynthetic yield calculations, the expected magnitude of heavy-isotope overabundance is larger for Si than for Mg, suggesting that any potential Mg heterogeneity, if present, exists below the 15 ppm level.