Chemical pretreatment and extraction techniques have been developed previously to extract in situ cosmogenic radiocarbon (in situ 14C) from quartz and carbonate. These minerals can be found in most environments on Earth, but are usually absent from mafic terrains. To fill this gap, we conducted numerous experiments aimed at extracting in situ 14C from olivine ((Fe,Mg)2SiO4). We were able to extract a stable and reproducible in situ 14C component from olivine using stepped heating and a lithium metaborate (LiBO2) flux, following treatment with dilute HNO3 over a variety of experimental conditions. However, measured concentrations for samples from the Tabernacle Hill basalt flow (17.3 ± 0.3 ka4) in central Utah and the McCarty's basalt flow (3.0 ± 0.2 ka) in western New Mexico were significantly lower than expected based on exposure of olivine in our samples to cosmic rays at each site. The source of the discrepancy is not clear. We speculate that in situ 14C atoms may not have been released from Mg-rich crystal lattices (the olivine composition at both sites was ~Fo65Fa35). Alternatively, a portion of the 14C atoms released from the olivine grains may have become trapped in synthetic spinel-like minerals that were created in the olivine-flux mixture during the extraction process, or were simply retained in the mixture itself. Regardless, the magnitude of the discrepancy appears to be inversely proportional to the Fe/(Fe+Mg) ratio of the olivine separates. If we apply a simple correction factor based on the chemical composition of the separates, then corrected in situ 14C concentrations are similar to theoretical values at both sites. At this time, we do not know if this agreement is fortuitous or real. Future research should include measurement of in situ 14C concentrations in olivine from known-age basalt flows with different chemical compositions (i.e. more Fe-rich) to determine if this correction is robust for all olivine-bearing rocks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)