Isotope fractionation



A rash of new controversy has emerged around the subject of mass-independent isotope fractionation effects, particularly in the case of the oxygen isotopes. To be sure, the controversy has been around for awhile, but it has been given new impetus by the results of a recent study by Mark H. Thiemens and John E. Heidenreich III of the University of California, San Diego (Science, March 4, 1983).

Gustav Arrhenius has been trying to convince the planetary science community that chemical effects in isotope fractionation processes could explain observations in meteorites that appear to be outside of the traditionally understood mass-dependent fractionations (G. Arrhenius, J . L. McCrumb, and N. F. Friedman, Astrophys. Space Sci, 65, 297, 1974). Robert Clayton had made the basic observations of oxygen in carbonaceous chondrites that the slope of the δ17 versus δ18 line was 1 instead of the slope of ½ characteristic of terrestrial rocks and lunar samples (Ann. Rev. Nucl. Part. Sci., 28, 501, 1978). The mass-independent effects were ascribed to the apparent contribution of an ancient presolar system component of O16.