Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iron Isotopes in Lava Lake Point to Possible Ways to Trace Planetary Origins

23.06.2008
A University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have found differences in the iron isotope composition of basalts from a lava lake in Hawaii that point to new ways of studying the origins of the earth and other planets.

Fang-Zhen Teng, assistant professor of geosciences and a member of the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, Nicholas Dauphas of the department of geophysical sciences and a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and Rosalind T. Helz of the U.S. Geological Survey report their findings in the June 20 issue of the journal Science.

The researchers examined iron isotopes in basalt samples from the Kilauea Iki lava lake on the main island of Hawaii. Isotopes have the same chemical properties but different weights, so some processes cause what looks like the same material to behave differently – often separating the two. Such separation can tell scientists something about how the material containing the isotopes formed.

However, until now scientists thought that such isotope fractionation only occurred at low temperatures and with elements of low molecular weight. Because of the heat and iron’s molecular weight, scientists thought that the process that formed basalts did not separate iron isotopes.

“There is a huge dispute on this topic,” Teng said. “Our research shows that there is clearly fractionation.”

Teng likens the change in iron isotopic composition in basalts to the baking of a cake: With a cake, you start out with certain ingredients, but the baking process changes the ingredients and their proportions within the cake. In the same way, the process that makes basalt magma through partial melting of the mantle peridotites, or rocks, changes the iron isotope compositions.

Past studies have examined basalts, but found little or no separation of iron isotopes. However, no one was studying the individual minerals found within a basaltic rock.

“We analyzed not only the whole rocks, but the separate minerals,” Teng said. The minerals examined showed a significant separation of iron isotopes, in contrast to the whole rocks. The researchers looked at olivine crystals, better known as peridot in the jewelry world, which formed and sank as the lava lake cooled.

“This research gives scientists a new tool to investigate the question of planetary differentiation,” said Dauphas. If basalts from the moon or Mars have similar iron isotope separation, it suggests that they formed through heat processes similar to those on Earth. However, if rocks from these planetary bodies do not have iron isotope separation, it suggests that they were formed in a different way.

The next project by Teng, who teaches in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will be to study the isotopic composition of iron in lunar basalts returned by the Apollo missions.

CONTACT:
Fang-Zhen Teng, assistant professor, geosciences
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
(479) 575-4524, fteng@uark.edu
* Cell phone in Beijing, China: (01186) 13718307470

Melissa Lutz Blouin | newswise
Further information:
http://www.uark.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>