Copper isotope evidence for large-scale sulphide fractionation during Earth’s differentiation

P.S. Savage, F. Moynier, H. Chen, G. Shofner, J. Siebert, J. Badro, I.S. Puchtel

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The differentiation of Earth into a metallic core and silicate mantle left its signature on the chemical and isotopic composition of the bulk silicate Earth (BSE). This is seen in the depletion of siderophile (metal-loving) relative to lithophile (rock-loving) elements in Earth’s mantle as well as the silicon isotope offset between primitive meteorites (i.e. bulk Earth) and BSE, which is generally interpreted as a proof that Si is present in Earth’s core. Another putative light element in Earth’s core is sulphur; however, estimates of core S abundance vary significantly and, due to its volatile nature, no unequivocal S isotopic signature for core fractionation has thus far been detected. Here we present new high precision isotopic data for Cu, a chalcophile (sulphur-loving) element, which shows that Earth’s mantle is isotopically fractionated relative to bulk Earth. Results from high pressure equilibration experiments suggest that the sense of Cu isotopic fractionation between BSE and bulk Earth requires that a sulphide-rich liquid segregated from Earth’s mantle during differentiation, which likely entered the core. Such an early-stage removal of a sulphide-rich phase from the mantle presents a possible solution to the long-standing 1st terrestrial lead paradox.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalGeochemical Perspectives Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2015


  • Core formation
  • Planetary differentiation
  • S in the core
  • Cu isotopes
  • Terrestrial Pb paradox


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