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The stable isotope geochemistry of Selenium and Tellurium in the Earth and planets


This project will investigate the natural behaviour of the elements tellurium (Te) and selenium (Se) in the Earth. The major focus will be the investigation of Se and Te isotopic fractionation in planetary scale processes and in biogeochemistry. Selenium and Te are of great intrinsic scientific interest and of some societal importance; (i) both are volatile resulting in isotopic fractionations in the early solar system; (ii) both are toxic at high concentrations and Se acts as a nutrient at low concentrations; (iii) Te has important industrial applications.

The project requires the development of a technique for the precise and accurate measurement of Se and Te isotope compositions. From the Se and Te isotope data of extraterrestrial and terrestrial samples we expect to make significant advances in our understanding of basic features of planet formation. The varying degree of depletion of volatile elements like Se and Te is an essential characteristic of the bulk chemical composition of a planet, and this depletion is expected to be accompanied by isotopic fractionation. The investigation of biologically driven isotopic fractionations of Se and Te will cover studies on ferromanganese crusts and experimental cultures.

The determination of mass dependent fractionations of Te will be completely new. Ferromanganese crusts are of special interest in this regard, because they are extremely enriched in Te, the reason for which is enigmatic. Geochemistry provides essential data and constraints in several disciplines of pure and applied science and interfaces with other research areas. This strong multi-disciplinarity will foster EU-wide co-operations. Planned missions to the Moon, Mars and comet Wild 2 will return samples to Earth. In order to be attractive for planetary scientists and to enhance international competitiveness, the EU should have research facilities that are capable of analysing such samples.

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Raemistrasse 101

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