EPXMA survey of shelf sediments (Southern Bight, North Sea): a glance beyond the XRD-invisible
Faculty of Sciences. Chemistry
Microchemical journal. - New York
, p. 21-31
University of Antwerp
Shelf sediments of the southern North Sea, were studied with a microanalytical [electron probe X-ray microanalysis (EPXMA)] and two bulk [X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF)] techniques. The investigation proved that the promptness of the microanalytical method is combined with a reasonable analytical reliability. XRD studies of such a type of sediments with monotonous mineral composition are not able to provide mineralogical information beyond the main well-crystalline minerals and the mineralogical quantitative characteristic of the sediment based on XRD estimations are incorrect. The EPXMA mineralogical interpretations are based on the statistical evaluation of a huge data set (thousands of mineral particles) and provide a rather correct quantitative determination of the main minerals. The comparative EPXMAXRF study revealed that the Al, Si, K, Ca, Fe and to some extent Ti contents estimated by EPXMA are fairly reliable. In this respect the accuracy of the EPXMA-based mineral identification of the pure silicates, pure aluminosilicates, and Al-, Ca-, Fe- and Ti-containing minerals with simple composition is very high. Mg-calcite, augite and apatite determinations are assessed to be correct. The supposed accuracy of the clay mineral determinations is slightly lower (7080%) than that of the other main minerals due to the complex and varying composition of the clays. The identification of XRD-invisible accessory minerals and quantification of their presence in the sediments is an essential advantage of the EPXMA, which makes it a useful approach in tracing the origin of the sediments, the pathways of their transport and the geochemical processes they have undergone. However, the EPXMA has several flaws, which need to be solved in the future sediment investigations: (1) calibration with natural standards is needed in order to provide a higher accuracy of the mineral determinations; (2) any EPXMA study of sediments needs to be secured with XRF examinations of selected samples since EPXMA gives only semi-quantitative information about the abundance of the elements; (3) ultra-thin window EPXMA of low-Z elements has to be used since some of them (O, C) are always present in the main sediment components: silicates, aluminosilicates, carbonates and metal oxyhydroxides; (4) the interpretations of the clay fraction have to be supported with detailed XRD investigations of selected samples, while the mineralogy of the silt and sand fractions needs to be backed up with optical microscopy studies. The information from different analytical techniques (EPXMA with XRFXRD-optical microscopy of selected samples) combined with the knowledge about the most possible minerals in a given environment, would give the most reliable results in studying mineralogical composition of shelf sediments.