Constraints on the Abundances of Carbon and Silicon in Mercury’s Core From Experiments in the Fe‐S

1Kathleen E. Vander Kaaden,2Francis M. McCubbin,1,3Amber A. Turner,1,4D. Kent Ross
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006239]
1Jacobs, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA
2NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA
3Department of Geoscience, University of Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, USA
4University of Texas at El Paso‐CASSMAR, El Paso, TX, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

The composition of a planet’s core has important implications for the thermal and magmatic evolution of that planet. Here, we conducted carbon (C) solubility experiments on iron‐silicon (Fe‐Si) metal mixtures (up to 35 wt% [~52 atom%] Si) at 1 GPa and 800–1800°C to determine the carbon concentration at graphite saturation (CCGS) in metallic melt and crystalline metal with varying proportions of Fe and Si to constrain the C content of Mercury’s core. Our results, combined with those in the literature, show that composition is the major controlling factor for carbon solubility in Fe‐rich metal with minimal effects from temperature and pressure. Moreover, there is a strong anticorrelation between the abundances of carbon and silicon in iron‐rich metallic systems. Based on the previous estimates of <1–25 wt% Si in Mercury’s core, our results indicate that a carbon‐saturated Mercurian core has 0.5–6.4 wt% C, with 6.4 wt% C corresponding to an Si‐free, Fe core and 0.5 wt% C corresponding to an Fe‐rich core with 25 wt% Si. The upper end of estimated FeO abundances in the mantle (up to 2.2 wt%) are consistent with a core that has <1 wt% Si and up to 6.4 wt% C, which would imply that bulk Mercury has a superchondritic Fe/Si ratio. However, the lower end of estimated FeO (≤0.05 wt%) supports CB chondrite‐like bulk compositions of Mercury with core Si abundances in the range of 5–18.5 wt% and C abundances in the range of 0.8–4.0 wt%.

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