Chalcophile Elements: Systematics and Relevance

Wieser, Penny and Jenner, Frances (2021). Chalcophile Elements: Systematics and Relevance. In: Alderton, David and Elias, Scott A. eds. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Elsevier, pp. 67–80.



Chalcophile elements, defined as those which have an affinity for a sulfide phase (e.g., Ni, Cu, Se, As, Cd, In), are essential components of many aspects of modern technology (e.g., photovoltaic cells, batteries, wind turbines). Their relative abundances in the Earth's mantle, and crust compared to meteorites also provide crucial insights into the evolution of our planet. Yet, our understanding of their behavior during various geological processes (e.g., core formation, mantle melting, fractional crystallization, fluid exsolution) has long been hindered by an absence of experimental data regarding their affinity for different phases. It is only recently that advances in analytical methods, such as laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), have permitted in-situ analyses of low concentration chalcophile elements, many of which are affected by elemental interferences (e.g., Se). These analytical advances, combined with improved experimental methodologies, have revealed that the affinity of elements for different phases is highly dependent on pressure, temperature, oxygen fugacity and the composition of the system (e.g., silicate melt FeO contents). For example, many siderophile elements display chalcophile element tendencies when there is no metallic phase in the system, and many chalcophile elements show volatile tendencies during planetary formation and subaerial volcanic activity. Thus, while the original classification developed by Goldschmidt has broad applicability, we emphasize that the affinity of certain elements for different phases must be evaluated at the conditions of interest to fully understand the geological processes that they record.

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