Abstract

—The radiogenic isotope systematics of clay minerals are complex because of the intimate mixture of minerals from different origins such as detrital and authigenic sources. An important aspect of dating clays is the primary sample preparation and disintegration method. In the present study, a sample of weakly deformed Opalinus claystone from the Mont Terri underground site (Switzerland) was investigated after disintegration by three different methods. The Opalinus Clay was sedimented in the late Toarcian and early Aalenian and reached maximum temperatures of ~85ºC during burial in the Cretaceous. The present study reports data from a comprehensive investigation comparing the effects of disintegration by: (1) disc milling; (2) repeated freezing and thawing; and (3) high-voltage discharges. K-Ar age values of the finest clay (<0.1 μm) released by the different disintegration methods are indistinguishable, indicating that the high-voltage liberation method does not influence grains as small as 100 nm. The K-Ar age values of particle-size separates decreased with decreasing particle size. The age values of the 2–6 μm separates correspond to the Carboniferous Period, which reflects the dominance of Paleozoic detritus in that size range. The age values of the smallest separates (<0.1 μm), on average 213 ± 4 Ma, exceed the numerical age of the formation (~ 177 –172 Ma), which show predominance of detrital grains over authigenic grains even in the finest illite. In summary, isotope geochronology data suggest that the high-voltage method can be applied reliably for disintegrating claystones.

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