Thallium Isotopes and Their Application to Problems in Earth and Environmental Science

  • Sune G. NielsenEmail author
  • Mark Rehkämper
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


This paper presents an account of the advances that have been made to date on the terrestrial stable isotope geochemistry of thallium (Tl). High precision measurements of Tl isotope ratios were only developed in the late 1990s with the advent of MC-ICP-MS and therefore we currently only have limited knowledge of the isotopic behavior of this element. Studies have revealed that Tl isotopes, despite their heavy masses of 203 and 205 atomic mass units, can fractionate substantially, especially in the marine environment. The most fractionated reservoirs identified are ferromanganese sediments and low temperature altered of oceanic crust. These display a total isotope variation of about 35 ε205Tl-units, which is over 50 times the analytical reproducibility of the measurement technique. The isotopic variation can be explained by invoking a combination of conventional mass dependent equilibrium isotope effects and the nuclear field shift isotope fractionation, but the specific mechanisms are still largely unaccounted for.

Thallium isotopes have been applied to investigate paleoceanographic processes in the Cenozoic and there is some evidence to suggest that Tl isotopes may be utilized as a monitor of Fe and Mn supply to the water column over million year time scales. In addition, Tl isotopes can be used to calculate the magnitude of hydrothermal fluid circulation through ocean crust. Such calculations can be performed both for high and low temperature fluids. Lastly, it has been shown that marine ferromanganese sediments can be detected in mantle-derived basalts with Tl isotopes (Nature 439:314–317), which confirms that marine sediments subducted at convergent plate margins can be recycled to the surface possibly via mantle plumes.


Isotope Composition Ocean Crust Isotope Fractionation Hydrothermal Fluid Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. Geology and GeophysicsWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth Science and EngineeringImperial CollegeLondonUK

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