Micron- to submicron-scale observations of Li distribution and Li isotope composition profiles can be used to infer the mechanisms of Li diffusion in natural zircon. Extreme fractionation (20–30‰) within each single crystal studied here confirms that Li diffusion commonly occurs in zircon. Sharp Li concentration gradients frequently seen in zircons suggest that the effective diffusivity of Li is significantly slower than experimentally determined (Cherniak and Watson, 2010; Trail et al., 2016), otherwise the crystallization/metamorphic heating of these zircons would have to be unrealistically fast (years to tens of years). Charge coupling with REE and Y has been suggested as a mechanism that may considerably reduce Li diffusivity in zircon (Ushikubo et al., 2008; Bouvier et al., 2012). We show that Li diffused in the direction of decreasing Li/Y ratio and increasing Li concentration (uphill diffusion) in one of the zircons, demonstrating charge coupling with REE and Y. Quantitative modeling reveals that Li may diffuse in at least two modes in natural zircons: one being slow and possibly coupled with REE+Y, and the other one being fast and not coupled with REE+Y. The partitioning of Li between these two modes during its diffusion may depend on the pre-diffusion substitution mechanism of REE and Y in the zircon lattice. Based on our results, sharp Li concentration gradients are not indicative of limited diffusion, and can be preserved at temperatures >700 °C on geologic timescales. Finally, large δ7Li variations observed in the Hadean Jack Hills zircons may record kinetic fractionation, rather than a record of ancient intense weathering in the granite source materials.
- charge coupling
- Li diffusion