Zirconium stable isotope analysis of zircon by MC-ICP-MS: Methods and application to evaluating intra-crystalline zonation in a zircon megacryst

Hannah G.D. Tompkins, Lisa J. Zieman, Mauricio Ibañez-Mejia, François L.H. Tissot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Zirconium (Zr) plays a key role in the development of phases like zircon (ZrSiO4) and baddeleyite (ZrO2) in magmatic systems. These minerals are crucial for the study of geologic time and crustal evolution, and their high resistivity to weathering and erosion results in their preservation on timescales of billions of years. Although zircon and baddeleyite may also preserve a robust record of Zr isotope behavior in high-temperature terrestrial environments, little is known about the factors that control Zr isotope partitioning in magmatic systems, the petrogenetic significance of fractionated compositions, or how these variations are recorded in Zr-rich accessory phases. Here, we describe a new analytical protocol for accurately determining the Zr stable isotope composition of zircon by multicollector-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS), using the double-spike method to correct for procedural and instrumental mass bias. We apply this technique to test whether zircon crystallization in carbonatite magmatic systems is a driver of Zr isotope fractionation by interrogating the internal zonation of a zircon megacryst from the Mud Tank carbonatite (MTUR1). We find the MTUR1 megacryst to lack internal zoning within analytical uncertainties with a mean μ94/90ZrNIST = -55 ± 28 ppm (2 SD, n = 151), which suggests that zircon crystallization is not a driver of Zr isotope fractionation in carbonatite magmas. This observation is in stark contrast with those made in silicate magmatic systems, raising the possibility that the bonding environment of Zr4+ ions may be fundamentally different in carbonatite vs. silicate melts. Because of its remarkable homogeneity, the MTUR1 megacryst is an ideal natural reference material for Zr isotopic analysis of zircon using both solution and spatially resolved methods. The reproducibility of a pure Zr solution and our chemically purified zircon fractions indicate that the external reproducibility of our method is on the order of ±28 ppm for μ94/90Zr, or ±7 ppm per amu, at 95% confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1186
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy


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