The University of Arizona

Gain and loss of uranium by meteorites and rocks, and implications for the redistribution of uranium on Mars



Terrestrial alteration of meteorites results in the redistribution, gain, or loss of uranium and other elements. We have measured the maximum U adsorption capacity of a meteorite and two geochemical reference materials under conditions resembling terrestrial ones (pH 5.8). The basaltic eucrite Sioux County adsorbs 7 ppm of U. The result for the terrestrial granite AC-E is similar (5 ppm), while the basalt BE-N adsorbs 34 ppm of U. We have also investigated U adsorption in the presence of phosphate (0.01 M or less) in imitation of conditions that probably occurred in the earlier history of Mars. Such a process would have alterated Martian surface material and would be noticeable in Martian meteorites from the affected surface. The experiments demonstrated the counteracting effects of phosphate, which increases U adsorption, but decreases the quantity of dissolved U that is available for adsorption. U adsorption by AC-E increases to 7 ppm. The lowered value for BE-N of 8 ppm results from the low quantity of dissolved U in the volume of solution used. The results from the adsorption experiments and from leaching the Martian meteorite Zagami and a terrestrial basalt imply that the aqueous redistribution of U on Mars was moderate. Acidic liquids mobilized uranium and other metals, but present phosphate impeded the dissolution of U compounds. Some mobilized U may have reached the global sinks, while most of it probably was transported in the form of suspended particles over a limited distance and then settled.


Meteorites.;Adsorption;Zagami;Martian meteorites;Basalt;eucrites

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