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Magnesium is a soft, silvery metallic element that’s essential for many biological functions. It also plays a key role in light alloys used to make consumer and industrial products. Like other elements, the atoms that form magnesium come from the fusion reactions of long-dead stars. The most common stable isotope of magnesium has 12 neutrons — particles that have a neutral charge — in its nucleus and an atomic number of 24.
The isotopic composition of magnesium can provide important information about geological processes. For example, Mg isotopic fractionation during weathering and precipitation can be used to estimate the temperature at which these processes occurred. Additionally, Mg isotopes are used to trace magmatic history and petrogenesis, as well as material circulation and mantle metasomatism.
Scientists have investigated the isotopic composition of Mg in meteorites, igneous rocks, and a range of sedimentary rock types. In addition, the isotopic composition of Mg in marine sediments can be compared to the isotopic composition of Mg in the mantle to help understand magma-to-lithosphere transfer.
This work is the first to report on Mg isotopic fractionation in solar wind (SW). The results were obtained using an instrumented mass fractionation standard (IMF) prepared from commercially implanted synthetic olivines. This IMF was used as a calibration target for SIMS measurements of Mg in SW. The results show that the isotopic composition of Mg in SW varies strongly with the velocity distribution of the ions. This is a result of heavy isotopes being implanted deeper in the sample than lighter isotopes due to varying solar conditions and processes.