GCA: The speciation of carbon, nitrogen, and water in magma oceans and its effect on volatile partitioning between major reservoirs of the Solar System rocky bodies

GCA: The speciation of carbon, nitrogen, and water in magma oceans and its effect on volatile partitioning between major reservoirs of the Solar System rocky bodies

Damanveer S. Grewal, Rajdeep Dasgupta, Alexandra Farnell

The composition of atmospheres and the resulting potential for planetary habitability in the rocky bodies of our Solar System and beyond is strongly controlled by the volatile exchange between their silicate reservoirs and exospheres. The initial budget and speciation of major volatiles, like carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and water (H2O), in the silicate reservoirs and atmospheres was set during the formation stages of rocky bodies. However, the speciation of these major volatiles in reduced silicate melts prevalent during the differentiation stages of rocky bodies and its effect on the partitioning of volatiles between major rocky body reservoirs is poorly known. Here we present SIMS and vibrational spectroscopy (FTIR and Raman) data, determining C solubility, H content, and speciation of mixed C-O-N-H volatiles in graphite saturated silicate glasses from high P (1–7 GPa)-T (1500–2200 °C) experiments reported in Grewal et al., 2019aGrewal et al., 2019b. The experiments recorded oxygen fugacity (log fO2) between IW–4.3 and IW–0.8. C-O-N-H speciation varied systematically as function of fO2 at any given PT. We find out that C-NCO32-, N2, and OH are the dominant species in the oxidized range (>IW–1.5), along with some contributions from C-H, N-H, and C-O bearing species. Between IW–3.0 and IW–1.5, C is bonded as C-O either in the form of isolated C-O molecules or Fe-carbonyl complexes, or as C-H in hydrocarbons, or as combination of both in esters, while almost all of the H is bonded with the dominant N species, i.e., NH2− or NH2-. At the most reduced conditions (<IW–3.0), C is present mostly in the form of C-H bearing species, while anhydrous N3− followed by N-H bearing molecules are the dominant N bearing species. Magma oceans (MOs) in highly reduced bodies like Mercury would contain most of their C as graphite if MO is carbon saturated and the dissolved C and N would be chemically bonded with the silicate network either in the form of anhydrous C4− and N3−, or hydrogenated C-H and N-H bearing species depending on H content of the silicate melts. MOs relevant for Mars, the Moon, Vesta, and angrite parent body would contain C and N mostly in the form of C-O and N-H bearing species, respectively. If the composition of Earth’s accreting material evolved from reduced to oxidized, then initially a significant amount of the C and N budget would be locked in the silicate reservoirs, which would subsequently be released to the proto-atmosphere(s) at later stages. The retention of proto-atmosphere(s) formed by MO degassing on Earth could have provided important precursors for prebiotic chemistry which possibly led to the eventual habitability of our planet. Additionally, based on the dominant speciation of N versus C in silicate melt as a function of fO2, we also predict that DNalloy/silicate is unaffected by fH2 under highly reduced conditions (<IW–3), while DCalloy/silicate is affected. Therefore, caution must be taken during the application of experimentally determined DNalloy/silicate and DCalloy/silicate to nominally anhydrous MOs.

Grewal, D. S., Dasgupta, R., & Farnell, A. (2020). The speciation of carbon, nitrogen, and water in magma oceans and its effect on volatile partitioning between major reservoirs of the Solar System rocky bodies. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 280: 281-301. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2020.04.023

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