Quantification of the ferric/ferrous iron ratio in silicates by scanning transmission X-ray microscopy at the Fe L2,3 edges

Franck Bourdelle, Karim Benzerara, Olivier Beyssac, Julie Cosmidis, Daniel R. Neuville, Gordon E. Brown, Erwan Paineau

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73 Scopus citations


Estimation of Fe3+/ΣFe ratios in materials at the submicrometre scale has been a long-standing challenge in the Earth and environmental sciences because of the usefulness of this ratio in estimating redox conditions as well as for geothermometry. To date, few quantitative methods with submicrometric resolution have been developed for this purpose, and most of them have used electron energy-loss spectroscopy carried out in the ultra-high vacuum environment of a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) is a relatively new technique complementary to TEM and is increasingly being used in the Earth sciences. Here, we detail an analytical procedure to quantify the Fe3+/ΣFe ratio in silicates using Fe L2,3-edge X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectra obtained by STXM, and we discuss its advantages and limitations. Two different methods for retrieving Fe3+/ΣFe ratios from XANES spectra are calibrated using reference samples with known Fe3+ content by independent approaches. The first method uses the intensity ratio of the two major peaks at the L3-edge. This method allows mapping of Fe3+/ΣFe ratios at a spatial scale better than 50 nm by the acquisition of 5 images only. The second method employs a 2-eV-wide integration window centred on the L2 maximum for Fe3+, which is compared to the total integral intensity of the Fe L2-edge. These two approaches are applied to metapelites from the Glarus massif (Switzerland), containing micrometre-sized chlorite and illite grains and prepared as ultrathin foils by focused ion beam milling. Nanometre-scale mapping of iron redox in these samples is presented and shows evidence of compositional zonation. The existence of such zonation has crucial implications for geothermometry and illustrates the importance of being able to measure Fe3+/ΣFe ratios at the submicrometre scale in geological samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-434
Number of pages12
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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