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Methods for In Situ SIMS Microanalysis of Boron and its Isotopes in Palagonite


Boron has been shown to be a useful trace element in clay-mineralization reactions, raising the possibility that B studies may provide a means to investigate environmental controls on palagonitization. The objective of the present study was to address calibration, matrix effects, and B exchangeability issues such that meaningful secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) microanalysis of B in thin sections of palagonite will be feasible. Silver Hill illite (IMt-1) was found to be a suitable calibration reference material, based on compositional similarity, relatively high B content, and ease of mounting on thin-section samples for SIMS microanalysis. Matrix effects of borated sideromelane and illite were compared and found to be similar, confirming previous studies which showed no matrix effects for B among minerals. Boron substitutes for Si in tetrahedral sites and also can be adsorbed in exchangeable sites of 2:1 clay minerals. Similarly, B can be found in tetrahedral and exchangeable sites within palagonite, which consists of both layered and amorphous volumes. In order to measure tetrahedral B content and isotopic ratio in the palagonite, exchangeable B was removed by soaking sample thin sections in a 1 M NH4Cl solution until exchangeable cation concentrations were constant. Treated samples showed decreases in B content and isotopic ratio with exchange. Extraction of exchangeable B permits the direct measurement of tetrahedral B content and isotopic ratio. The exchange technique devised and tested here should have broad applicability to thin-section microanalysis of B in clay and clay-like materials where cation exchange can be used for surface-analytical techniques. The present study represents an initial attempt to address sample-preparation, calibration, and potential matrix-effects problems for analyses by SIMS. Further refinements may improve the accuracy of the measurements, but the results presented here indicate that meaningful measurements are possible.

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