Isotopic mass fractionation laws for magnesium and their effects on 26Al–26Mg systematics in solar system materials

Andrew M. Davis, Frank M. Richter, Ruslan A. Mendybaev, Philip E. Janney, Meenakshi Wadhwa, Kevin D. McKeegan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Magnesium isotope ratios are known to vary in solar system objects due to the effects of 26Al decay to 26Mg and mass-dependent fractionation, but anomalies of nucleosynthetic origin must also be considered. In order to infer the amount of enhancement of 26Mg/24Mg due to 26Al decay or to resolve small nucleogenetic anomalies, the exact relationship between 26Mg/24Mg and 25Mg/24Mg ratios due to mass-dependent fractionation, the mass-fractionation “law” must be accurately known so that the 25Mg/24Mg ratio can be used to correct the 26Mg/24Mg ratio for mass fractionation. Mass-dependent fractionation in mass spectrometers is reasonably well characterized, but not necessarily fully understood. It follows a simple power fractionation law, sometimes referred to as the “exponential law”. In contrast, mass fractionation in nature, in particular that due to high temperature evaporation that likely caused the relatively large effects observed in calcium-, aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), is reasonably well understood, but mass-fractionation laws for magnesium have not been explored in detail. The magnesium isotopic compositions of CAI-like evaporation residues produced in a vacuum furnace indicate that the slope on a log 25Mg/24Mg vs. log 26Mg/24Mg plot is ∼0.5128, and different from those predicted by any of the commonly used mass-fractionation laws. Evaporation experiments on forsterite-rich bulk compositions give exactly the same slope, indicating that the measured mass-fractionation law for evaporation of magnesium is applicable to a wide range of bulk compositions. We discuss mass-fractionation laws and the implications of the measured fractionation behavior of magnesium isotopes for 26Al–26Mg chronology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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