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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Feb 10;108(6):065901. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

Isotope fractionation by thermal diffusion in silicate melts.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


Isotopes fractionate in thermal gradients, but there is little quantitative understanding of this effect in complex fluids. Here we present results of experiments and molecular dynamics simulations on silicate melts. We show that isotope fractionation arises from classical mechanical effects, and that a scaling relation based on Chapman-Enskog theory predicts the behavior seen in complex fluids without arbitrary fitting parameters. The scaling analysis reveals that network forming elements (Si and O) fractionate significantly less than network modifiers (e.g., Mg, Ca, Fe, Sr, Hf, and U).

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