Yttrium speciation in subduction-zone fluids from ab initio molecular dynamics simulations

Stefanski, Johannes; Jahn, Sandro

The rare Earth elements (REEs) are important geochemical tracers for geological processes such as high-grade metamorphism. Aqueous fluids are considered important carriers for the REEs in a variety of geological environments including settings associated with subduction zones. The capacity of a fluid to mobilize REEs strongly depends on its chemical composition and on the presence of suitable ligands such as fluoride and chloride. In this study, we present structural and thermodynamic properties of aqueous yttrium–chloride and yttrium–fluoride species at a temperature of 800 inline-formulaC in a pressure range between 1.3 and 4.5 inline-formulaGPa derived from ab initio molecular dynamics simulations. The total yttrium coordination by inline-formulaH2O and halide ions changes from seven to eight within the pressure range. For the yttrium–chloride species, a maximum number of three chloride ligands was observed. The derived thermodynamic data show that aqueous yttrium–fluoride complexes are more stable than their yttrium–chloride counterparts in chloride- and fluoride-rich environments at conditions relevant to slab dehydration. Mixed inline-formulaY(Cl,F) complexes are found to be unstable even on the molecular dynamics timescale. Furthermore, in contrast to field observations, thermodynamic modeling indicates that yttrium should be mobilized at rather low fluoride concentrations in high-grade metasomatic systems. These results suggest a rather low fluoride activity in the majority of subduction-zone fluids because yttrium is one of the least-mobile REEs. Additionally, the simulations indicate that yttrium drives the self-ionization of hydration water molecules as it was observed for other high-field-strength elements. This might be a general property for highly charged cations in aqueous solutions under high-temperature and high-pressure conditions.

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Stefanski, Johannes / Jahn, Sandro: Yttrium speciation in subduction-zone fluids from ab initio molecular dynamics simulations. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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