The formation of carbonaceous material in the early solar nebula: The role of metal dusting

Frank T. Ferguson, Natasha M. Johnson, Neyda Abreu, Joseph A. Nuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many years it has been suggested that the carbonaceous material found in association with Fe/Ni metal and metal carbides in primitive bodies is linked to the Fischer-Tropsch reaction. This is especially true with chondriticporous interplanetary dust particles, which are considered to have a cometary origin and are among some of the most primitive and least processed materials available for study. Another phenomenon which occurs under the same carburizing conditions as the Fischer-Tropsch reaction is called metal dusting and could be a possible pathway to forming some of the carbonaceous material found in primitive bodies. Metal dusting is a catastrophic corrosion of metal under these carburizing conditions that results in a porous mixture of carbonaceous material, metal, and metal carbides. In the case of pure iron, type I metal dusting results in the formation of a metastable iron carbide, typically cementite, Fe3C. While metal dusting has been studied industrially for over 50 years, it does not appear to have been applied to the formation of carbonaceous material in astrophysical settings. In this work, the general mechanism of metal dusting on iron is described and a thermodynamic analysis of the dusting phenomena applied to solar nebula conditions. Rate measurements are made with pure iron samples over the temperature range from 400°C to 950°C. In addition, the products from experimental runs at 500°C and 600°C are studied by transmission electron microscopy. Results show that iron carbide particles are formed with carbonaceous material consisting of poorly graphitized carbon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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