Abstract

Most natural rocks or engineered materials display a multi-scale heterogeneity ranging from the nanometer to the centimeter. Their spatial textural heterogeneity can be approached from chemical element maps acquired using various techniques (SEM, EPMA, SXAM, synchrotron μ-XRF, TEM), depending on the chosen magnification. Chemical map processing that yields quantitative petrographic information is improved here according to newly developed mineral thresholding methods that accommodate mixtures and solid solutions. The complex case of an MX80 compacted bentonite is used as a test case. The 14 major chemical elements of this sample were mapped using an electron probe microanalyzer, and chemical map processing yielded a quantitative map of the 18 mineral species of bentonite with a spatial resolution of a few micrometers. The textural heterogeneity of the solid part of the sample is thus visualized and quantified on an area ranging between 0.1–1 cm2. The method also provides a complete modal analysis of the sample. The methodology is expected to have broad applications in Earth and materials sciences.

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