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The properties of sandstones are strongly affected by formation of minerals in the pore space during diagenesis. In many sandstones, quartz overgrowths are the most important pore-filling cements and show a characteristic trace element composition. The most important impurities are Al, Li, H and Ge.

The Al concentration of quartz may reach up to several 1000 µmol mol−1 and is assumed to reflect the composition of the porewater. Geochemical modelling of the activity ratio of Al and Si revealed a minimum at nearly neutral to slightly acid conditions. This minimum shifts to lower pH with increasing temperatures. Due to complexing, organic acids may strongly affect the Al solubility especially in acidic water at low temperatures. There is a linear correlation between Al and Li, indicating their incorporation in a combined [AlO4|Li] centre. Since Li only accounts for 10–30% of the Al concentration, the remaining Al needs to be balanced by H. The ratio of Li/H-compensated Al centres seems to depend on the Li activity and the pH in the aqueous solution. Germanium concentrations in quartz cements are slightly higher than the crustal average and they show a weak correlation with Al. The excess of Ge in authigenic quartz requires pre-enrichment, probably by formation of kaolinite. Possible applications of trace element analyses of authigenic quartz include discrimination of different sources that contribute to the supply of silica, enhanced understanding of inhomogeneities that are related to cementation and possible tracking of fluid migration.

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