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Cathodoluminescence (CL) petrography provides a unique capability for documenting physical and chemical diagenetic processes in sandstones, particularly those cemented by quartz. Mostdetrital quartz grains display relatively intense CL owing to lattice defects and trace cation inclusions inherited from crystalline source rocks. In contrast, most authigenic quartz contains fewer lattice defects and trace cations, and therefore displays less intense CL.

Detrital grains, cement, and porosity can be objectively identified and measured using CL petrography. These measurements allow quantitative evaluation of total compaction, which is inferred by calculating intergranular volume (intergranular cement plus intergranular porosity), and cementation. An estimate of chemical compaction can also be made by subjectively reconstructing original grain boundaries at intergranular pressure solution contacts and measuring overlap quartz. These quantitative estimates can be used to interpret silica budgets, to evaluate porosity, and to assess the relative importance of various diagenetic events to porosity reduction.

CL petrography also permits valuable qualitative observations that can rarely be made using only transmitted light techniques. Brittle grain fracture and plastic deformation of ductile lithic fragments, both indicative of mechanical compaction, can commonly be documented in CL. Cement zonation, particularly in quartz overgrowths, can provide the key to unraveling complex paragenetic relationships.

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