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Uranium isotope fractionation by abiotic reductive precipitation


Significant uranium (U) isotope fractionation has been observed during abiotic reduction of aqueous U, counter to the expectation that uranium isotopes are only fractionated by bioassociated enzymatic reduction. In our experiments, aqueous U is removed from solution by reductive precipitation onto the surfaces of synthetic iron monosulfide. The magnitude of uranium isotopic fractionation increases with decreasing aqueous U removal rate and with increasing amounts of neutrally charged aqueous Ca-U-CO3 species. Our discovery means that abiotic U isotope fractionation likely occurs in any reducing environment with aqueous Ca ≥ 1 mM, and that the magnitude of isotopic fractionation changes in response to changes in aqueous major ion concentrations that affect U speciation. Our results have implications for the study of anoxia in the ancient oceans and other environments.

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