Origin of Nanodiamonds from Allende Constrained by Statistical Analysis of C Isotopes from Small Clusters of Acid Residue by NanoSIMS

1Josiah B. Lewis, 1Christine Floss, 1Frank Gyngard
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2017.06.008]
1Laboratory for Space Sciences, Physics Department, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Meteoritic nanodiamonds carry noble gases with anomalies in their stable isotopes that have drawn attention to their potentially presolar origin. Measurements of 12C/13C isotope ratios of presolar nanodiamonds are essential to understanding their origins, but bulk studies do not show notable deviations from the solar system 12C/13C ratio.

We implemented a technique using secondary ion mass spectrometry with maximized spatial resolution to measure carbon isotopes in the smallest clusters of nanodiamonds possible. We measured C and Si from clusters containing as few as 1000 nanodiamonds, the smallest clusters of nanodiamonds measured to date by traditional mass spectrometry. This allowed us to investigate many possible complex compositions of the nanodiamonds, both through direct methods and statistical analysis of the distributions of observed isotopic ratios.

Analysis of the breadth of distributions of carbon isotopic ratios for a number of ∼1000-nanodiamond aggregates indicates that the 12C/13C ratio may be drawn from multiple Gaussian distributions about different isotopic ratios, which implies the presence of presolar material. The mean isotopic ratio is consistent with the solar system value, so presolar components are required to be either low in concentration, or to have a mean ratio close to that of the solar system. Supernovae are likely candidates for the source of such a presolar component, although asymptotic giant branch stars are not excluded.

A few aggregates show deviations from the mean 12C/13C ratio large enough to be borderline detections of enrichments in 13C. These could be caused by the presence of a small population of nanodiamonds formed from sources that produce extremely 13C-rich material, such as J-stars, novae, born-again asymptotic giant branch stars, or supernovae. Of these possible sources, only supernovae would account for the anomalous noble gases carried in the nanodiamonds.

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