The origin and degassing history of the Earth's atmosphere revealed by Archean xenon

Guillaume Avice, Bernard Marty, Raymond Burgess

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Xenon (Xe) is an exceptional tracer for investigating the origin and fate of volatile elements on Earth. The initial isotopic composition of atmospheric Xe remains unknown, as do the mechanisms involved in its depletion and isotopic fractionation compared with other reservoirs in the solar system. Here we present high precision analyses of noble gases trapped in fluid inclusions of Archean quartz (Barberton, South Africa) that reveal the isotopic composition of the paleo-atmosphere at ≈3.3 Ga. The Archean atmospheric Xe is mass-dependently fractionated by 12.9±2.4 ‰ u−1 (± 2σ, s.d.) relative to the modern atmosphere. The lower than today 129Xe excess requires a degassing rate of radiogenic Xe from the mantle higher than at present. The primordial Xe component delivered to the Earth's atmosphere is distinct from Solar or Chondritic Xe but similar to a theoretical component called U-Xe. Comets may have brought this component to the Earth's atmosphere during the last stages of terrestrial accretion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number15455
    JournalNature Communications
    Early online date18 May 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    Dive into the research topics of 'The origin and degassing history of the Earth's atmosphere revealed by Archean xenon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this