Zirconium isotope heterogeneities in the solar system

  • Waheed Akram

Student thesis: Phd


Laboratory measurements of primitive and differentiated meteorites have been made in order to understand the origin of isotopic anomalies. The element Zr is chosen for analysis, due to its potential for nuclear and astrophysical applications. Zirconium has five stable isotopes that are produced in different (neutron-capture) nucleosynthetic processes. By analysing the Zr isotope composition of meteorites, we are able to track the mixing of various neutron capture processes in the early Solar System.Measurements have been performed on carbonaceous, ordinary and enstatite chondrites, eucrites, the Moon and Earth. Samples are crushed, digested and passed through a two stage anion exchange separation to obtain a clean Zr fraction. All Zr measurements are made on a Nu Plasma multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS). The results indicate that the bulk of refractory Ca-Al rich inclusions of the Allende meteorite are characterised by uniform enrichments (around 2ε) of the neutron-rich isotope 96Zr, and potentially coupled with excesses reported for the neutron rich isotope 50Ti, indicating that both nuclides may have similar astrophysical origins. Analysis of bulk rock carbonaceous chondrites reveal 96Zr excesses (not exceeding 1ε) that scale with the abundance of CAIs. However, widespread 96Zr correlations are also seen, accompanied by minor depletions in 91Zr, which suggest the solar nebular had experienced thermal heating of some sort, altering the initial (possibly uniform) Zr isotope composition of the early Solar System from which planetary bodies formed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIan Lyon (Supervisor) & Maria Schonbachler (Supervisor)


  • Meteorites
  • Cosmochemistry
  • Zirconium
  • Neutron-capture

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