Al-Cu-Fe alloys in the solar system: Going inside a Khatyrka-like micrometeorite (KT01) from the Nubian Desert, Sudan

Chi Ma, Jinping Hu, Martin D. Suttle, Yunbin Guan, Thomas G. Sharp, Paul D. Asimow, Paul J. Steinhardt, Luca Bindi

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A recently described micrometeorite from the Nubian desert (Sudan) contains an exotic Al-Cu-Fe assemblage closely resembling that observed in the Khatyrka chondrite (Suttle et al., 2019; Science Reports 9:12426). We here extend previous investigations of the geochemical, mineralogical, and petrographic characteristics of the Sudan spherule by measuring oxygen isotope ratios in the silicate components and by nano-scale transmission electron microscopy study of a focused ion beam foil that samples the contact between Al-Cu alloys and silicates. O-isotope work indicates an affinity to either OC or CR chondrites, while ruling out a CO or CM precursor. When combined with petrographic evidence we conclude that a CR chondrite parentage is the most likely origin for this micrometeorite. SEM and TEM studies reveal that the Al-Cu alloys mainly consist of Al metal, stolperite (CuAl), and khatyrkite (CuAl2) together with inclusions in stolperite of a new nanometric, still unknown Al-Cu phase with a likely nominal Cu3Al2 stoichiometry. At the interface between the alloy assemblage and the surrounding silicate, there is a thin layer (200 nm) of almost pure MgAl2O4 spinel along with well-defined and almost perfectly spherical metallic droplets, predominantly iron in composition. The study yields additional evidence that Al-Cu alloys, the likely precursors to quasicrystals in Khatyrka, occur naturally. Moreover, it implies the existence of multiple pathways leading to the association in reduced form of these two elements, one highly lithophile and the other strongly chalcophile.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1642-1653
Number of pages12
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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