Magnesium represents 0.07 % of the composition of the Sun's photosphere while aluminum represents 0.006 %. Therefore, there is much more magnesium than aluminum in the Sun's photosphere.

But the same does not happen in the Earth's crust, where magnesium represents 2.9 % of its composition and aluminum represents 8.1 %.

Is there a particular reason why this is so?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Magnesium is more plentiful than aluminum in the mantle, which is 84% of the Earth's volume . $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Jun 1 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ That is to be expected, but I was referring to why aluminum is more abundant in the crust. $\endgroup$ – URIZEN Jun 1 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget uranium. There's a lot more gold than there is uranium in the solar system, by a factor of about 20, but there's a whole lot more uranium in the Earth's crust than there is gold, by a factor of about 600. There's more uranium than gold in the Earth's crust for the same reason that there's more aluminum than magnesium in the Earth's crust. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jun 1 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ If you ask about the crust specifically, that should be in our title as well.. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Jun 3 at 15:41

On the earth as a whole, there is much more magnesium than aluminium.

Your question is why, specifically in the crust, there is more aluminium than magnesium.

The reason is that Mg is a compatible element whereas Al is an incompatible element. There were several questions here that addressed some aspects of this topic, for example:

What are the high field strength and large ion lithophile (HFS or HFSE & LIL or LILE) elements?

What was the likely composition of Earth's early crust (how did crustal composition evolve)?

Why silicon is abundant in earth surface?

Why do felsic materials have lower melting points than mafic?

Why is there more Al than Mg in the crust?

In earth's (upper) mantle, most Mg is inside the mineral olivine, with some in other minerals such as clinopyroxene and orthopyroxene. In contrast, most Al is in the minerals plagioclase, spinel, and garnet. There could be a tiny amount of Al in the pyroxenes as well.

When you melt the solid mantle rock that is composed of all of the minerals I listed above, some minerals melt at lower temperatures than the others. So the magma composition that is formed more closely resembles those minerals that melted.

As you can guess, the Mg-rich minerals are refractory (that is, they are harder to melt). The Al-rich minerals are usually very easy to melt. So whenever you have magma that comes from the mantle into the crust, it will have more Al than Mg. Over the billions of years of Earth's crustal evolution, quite a lot of Al (along with Na, K, Fe, Ca, and Si) accumulated in the crust, relative to the amount that was in the parental mantle.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Also the source of the old terms "SiAl" and "SiMa". $\endgroup$ – Spencer Jun 2 at 13:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.