Equilibrium clumped-isotope effects in doubly substituted isotopologues of ethane

Michael A. Webb, Yimin Wang, Bastiaan J. Braams, Joel M. Bowman, Thomas F. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We combine path-integral Monte Carlo methods with a new intramolecular potential energy surface to quantify the equilibrium enrichment of doubly substituted ethane isotopologues due to clumped-isotope effects. Ethane represents the simplest molecule to simultaneously exhibit 13C–13C, 13C–D, and D–D clumped-isotope effects, and the analysis of corresponding signatures may provide useful geochemical and biogeochemical proxies of formation temperatures or reaction pathways. Utilizing path-integral statistical mechanics, we predict equilibrium fractionation factors that fully incorporate nuclear quantum effects, such as anharmonicity and rotational-vibrational coupling which are typically neglected by the widely used Urey model. The magnitude of the calculated fractionation factors for the doubly substituted ethane isotopologues indicates that isotopic clumping can be observed if rare-isotope substitutions are separated by up to three chemical bonds, but the diminishing strength of these effects suggests that enrichment at further separations will be negligible. The Urey model systematically underestimates enrichment due to 13C–D and D–D clumped-isotope effects in ethane, leading to small relative errors in the apparent equilibrium temperature, ranging from 5 K at 273.15 K to 30 K at 873.15 K. We additionally note that the rotameric dependence of isotopologue enrichment must be carefully considered when using the Urey model, whereas the path-integral calculations automatically account for such effects due to configurational sampling. These findings are of direct relevance to future clumped-isotope studies of ethane, as well as studies of 13C–13C, 13C–D, and D–D clumped-isotope effects in other hydrocarbons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Jan 15 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Clumped isotope geochemistry
  • Equilibrium isotope effects
  • Ethane
  • Path-integral methods
  • Vibrational anharmonicity


Dive into the research topics of 'Equilibrium clumped-isotope effects in doubly substituted isotopologues of ethane'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this