Experimental determination of barium isotope fractionation during diffusion and adsorption processes at low temperatures

Kirsten van Zuilen*, Thomas Müller, Thomas F. Nägler, Martin Dietzel, Tim Küsters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variations in barium (Ba) stable isotope abundances measured in low and high temperature environments have recently received increasing attention. The actual processes controlling Ba isotope fractionation, however, remain mostly elusive. In this study, we present the first experimental approach to quantify the contribution of diffusion and adsorption on mass-dependent Ba isotope fractionation during transport of aqueous Ba2+ ions through a porous medium. Experiments have been carried out in which a BaCl2 solution of known isotopic composition diffused through u-shaped glass tubes filled with silica hydrogel at 10 °C and 25 °C for up to 201 days. The diffused Ba was highly fractionated by up to −2.15‰ in δ137/134Ba, despite the low relative difference in atomic mass. The time-dependent isotope fractionation can be successfully reproduced by a diffusive transport model accounting for mass-dependent differences in the effective diffusivities of the Ba isotope species (D137Ba/D134Ba=(m134/m137)β). Values of β extracted from the transport model were in the range of 0.010–0.011. Independently conducted batch experiments revealed that adsorption of Ba onto the surface of silica hydrogel favoured the heavier Ba isotopes (α = 1.00015 ± 0.00008). The contribution of adsorption on the overall isotope fractionation in the diffusion experiments, however, was found to be small. Our results contribute to the understanding of Ba isotope fractionation processes, which is crucial for interpreting natural isotope variations and the assessment of Ba isotope ratios as geochemical proxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-241
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adsorption
  • Ba isotopes
  • Barium
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusive transport model
  • Experiment
  • Reactive transport
  • Stable isotope fractionation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science


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