Research using deep mantle krypton infers more about the ancestry of Earth’s outer solar system

Using Precise Measurements of Krypton Isotopes, UC Davis Researchers Prove Volatile Organic Compounds Were Incorporated into Earth Earlier Than They Thought

By MONICA MANMADKAR — [email protected]

According to a new to study published in Nature by UC Davis researchers, krypton (Kr) isotopes offer a better idea of ​​how, when and where carbon, nitrogen and water were brought to Earth. The study of these volatile organic compounds is an extremely important part of understanding the history of the Earth and, by extension, the history of other planets.

Gathering these isotopes from the Galápagos Islands, researchers Sandrine Péron and Sujoy Mukhopadhyay analyzed these isotopes for chemical fingerprints. According to the study, since krypton is composed of both meteoritic and atmospheric isotopes, this element can tell us a lot about Earth’s history and how its volatile elements like carbon, nitrogen and water initially developed.

“This study will [researchers] to better understand how the Earth came to be and especially when these volatile elements developed in Earth’s history,” said Sandrine Péron, the study’s lead author and ongoing Marie Curie Actions Fellow at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Péron conducted the research at UC Davis as a postdoctoral fellow working with a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Sujoy Mukhopadhyay. She described how the deep mantle krypton remains unchanged from the formation of the Moon, which is why isotopes can be used to infer when volatile compounds came to Earth. Volcanic patches at the Galápagos Islands draw magma from the mantle, which is near the Earth’s iron core. Collecting lava feathers, researchers can use this magma to extract krypton isotopes. However, even with lava, researchers are only able to collect a few million atoms of the most abundant krypton isotopes.

“Since the process of deducing their impact poses a challenge, [Péron] was able to find a better method to measure the krypton mantle than mass spectrometry,” Mukhopadhyay said. “[She] was able to concentrate krypton from rock samples where the samples would be free of air contamination and separated from argon and xenon.

Péron went on to explain how their study was the first to calculate all krypton isotopes exactly, including the rarest krypton isotopes, Kr-78 and Kr-80. Using these isotopes as a fingerprint, the researchers hoped to find where the volatile elements and compounds were originally raised from the asteroid belt, the inner solar system or elsewhere.

“These isotopes basically act like DNA in terms of lineage, [and are answering questions like] where did these elements come from and which bodies provided these essential elements for life,” Mukhopadhyay said.

The researchers soon discovered that the isotope fingerprints contained traces of primitive, carbon-rich meteorites that were featured very early in Earth’s history.

This reveals two new findings, says Péron. First, although isotopes show that volatile elements arose very early in Earth’s history, all isotopes have been accounted for in known meteorites. On the other hand, the researchers found that the ratio of deep mantle krypton does not match atmospheric krypton isotope levels, meaning that some of those in the atmosphere were delivered during the moon’s formation. . Otherwise, the ratio for deep mantle krypton and an atmosphere would be the same, Péron explained.

With this research in mind, Mukhopadhyay’s lab hopes to continue answering questions about why krypton’s fingerprint in Earth’s atmosphere is different from the deep mantle and how representative the study’s measurements are. are from all inside the Earth’s mantle.

Written by: Monica Manmadkar – [email protected]

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