Abstract

A method to characterize and map both kaolinite and dickite polytypes in sandstone thin sections using infrared microspectroscopy (IRMS) was developed. Minerals identification using IRMS can be performed using the hydroxyl-stretching band of most clay minerals (3500–4000 cm−1) in spite of infrared (IR) interferences caused by the embedding resin and glass substratum. Emphasis was placed on determining the optimum analytical conditions for IR data acquisition. The best data-acquisition parameters for Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) measurements (i.e. spectra quality as a function of beam size and the number of scans) were obtained from a series of single spectra. Then, spatial resolution was explored as a function of the IR beam size (from 50 μm × 50 μm to 15 μm × 15 μm) and the step-scan interval (i.e. the distance between two successive analysis points). The IRMS measurements were performed on thin sections of materials characterized previously using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and chemical analysis. Using IRMS, locations on the thin sections containing nearly pure dickite or kaolinite polytypes were identified and mapped. Most spectra collected using IRMS represented kaolin mineral aggregates rather than individual crystals, however, and mixing of kaolin polytypes was common at the spatial resolution of the IR beam size used. The spatial resolution of the IRMS was comparable to optical petrography and made possible the identification of areas on the thin section for further ‘in situ’ investigation using other methods (e.g. microprobe, Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry – LA-ICP-MS, etc.). Also, the use of blocky crystal morphology to identify dickite was questioned, as kaolinite with blocky habit was identified. Mineral mapping using IRMS seems particularly suited for investigating petrographic relationships between kaolinite and dickite in sandstone diagenesis, but could also be used for clay minerals in other rock types or soils.

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