Lithium and potassium isotope fractionation during silicate rock dissolution: An experimental approach

WashU affiliated authors: Kun Wang, Piers Koefoed (Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences)

Abstract: This study experimentally investigates the isotopic behaviors of Li and K during the dissolution of silicate rocks (i.e., basalt and granite). Proton-driven dissolution (in 0.8 M HNO3) and ligand-driven dissolution (in 5 mM critic acid or oxalic acid) experiments were performed in batch-closed systems over 15 days. We provide a time-series interpretation of Li and K isotope fractionation during silicate dissolution in ultra-acidic (unidirectional) and near-natural (biologically affected) environments. As the reaction progressed, we measured large isotope fractionation between the liquid (l) phase and the pristine silicate (s) phase, ranging from −10.3 to 0.1‰ (Δ7Lil-s) and from −1.01 to −0.11‰ (Δ41Kl-s) through the early stage of dissolution (<24 h). The enrichment of lighter Li and K isotopes in the solutions rapidly diminished as rock dissolution continued and gradually approached equilibrium to the end of experiments. In contrast, resorption of pre-leached isotopically lighter Li on silicate residuals during ligand-driven dissolution produced lighter isotope enrichment in the solutions compared to the initial rock by up to 2.8‰. Despite the preferential dissolution of specific minerals, the isotope fractionation patterns of Li and K do not vary with lithology, indicating limited inter-mineral isotopic differences. During the experiments, the Li and K isotopic pattern could be divided into two-to-three stages. The initial enrichment of light isotopes in the liquids can be ascribed to the kinetic isotope effect, confounded by diffusion and ion solvation. A later transition towards no isotope fractionation of Li and K may be explained by (i) the masking effect from dissolution, and (ii) an imprint from the destruction of 7Li/41K-enriched surface layers. Lateral resorption of solute Li after ~100 h reaction could be facilitated by the electrostatic attraction from increasing surface negative charges and active hydroxyls with increasing pH during ligand-driven dissolution (pH ~ 4) relative to proton-driven dissolution (pH ~ 0.2). Therefore, the presence of organic ligands impacts dissolution stoichiometry, and potentially modifies Li isotope fractionation in natural weathering environments. In comparison, K isotope fractionation driven by rock dissolution stops immediately (within days) after starting the experiments. This research helps to understand the mechanisms of Li and K isotope fractionation during chemical weathering and trace long-term climate change using geological records.