Silicon isotope fractionation during magmatic differentiation

P.S. Savage, R.B. Georg, H.M. Williams, K.W. Burton, A.N. Halliday

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102 Citations (Scopus)


The Si isotopic composition of Earth's mantle is thought to be homogeneous (δSi=-0.29±0.08‰, 2s.d.) and not greatly affected by partial melting and recycling. Previous analyses of evolved igneous material indicate that such rocks are isotopically heavy relative to the mantle. To understand this variation, it is necessary to investigate the degree of Si isotopic fractionation that takes place during magmatic differentiation. Here we report Si isotopic compositions of lavas from Hekla volcano, Iceland, which has formed in a region devoid of old, geochemically diverse crust. We show that Si isotopic composition varies linearly as a function of silica content, with more differentiated rocks possessing heavier isotopic compositions. Data for samples from the Afar Rift Zone, as well as various igneous USGS standards are collinear with the Hekla trend, providing evidence of a fundamental relationship between magmatic differentiation and Si isotopes. The effect of fractionation has been tested by studying cumulates from the Skaergaard Complex, which show that olivine and pyroxene are isotopically light, and plagioclase heavy, relative to the Si isotopic composition of the Earth's mantle. Therefore, Si isotopes can be utilised to model the competing effects of mafic and felsic mineral fractionation in evolving silicate liquids and cumulates.At an average SiO content of ∼60wt.%, the predicted δSi value of the continental crust that should result from magmatic fractionation alone is -0.23±0.05‰ (2s.e.), barely heavier than the mantle. This is, at most, a maximum estimate, as this does not take into account weathered material whose formation drives the products toward lighter δSi values. Mass balance calculations suggest that removal of continental crust of this composition from the upper mantle will not affect the Si isotopic composition of the mantle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6124-6139
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2011


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