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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Artifacts from manganese reduction in rock samples prepared by focused ion beam (FIB) slicing for X-ray microspectroscopic analysis

  • Author(s): Macholdt, Dorothea S
  • Pöhlker, Christopher
  • Förster, Jan-David
  • Müller, Maren
  • Weber, Bettina
  • Kappl, Michael
  • Kilcoyne, AL David
  • Weigand, Markus
  • Jochum, Klaus Peter
  • Andreae, Meinrat O
  • et al.

Abstract. Manganese (Mn)-rich natural rock coatings, so-called rock varnishes, are discussed controversially regarding their genesis. Biogenic and abiogenic mechanisms, as well as a combination of both, have been proposed to be responsible for the Mn oxidation and deposition process. We conducted scanning transmission X-ray microscopy - near edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (STXM-NEXAFS) measurements to examine the abundance and spatial distribution of the different oxidation states of Mn within these nano- to micrometer thick crusts. Such microanalytical measurements of thin and hard rock crusts require sample preparation with minimal contamination risk. Focused ion beam (FIB) slicing, a well-established technique in geosciences, was used in this study to obtain 100–200 nm thin slices of the samples for X-ray transmission spectroscopy. However, even though this preparation is suitable to investigate element distributions and structures in rock samples, we observed that, using standard parameters, modifications of the Mn oxidation states occur in the surfaces of the FIB slices. Based on our results, the preparation technique likely causes the reduction of Mn4+ to Mn2+/3+. We draw attention to this issue, since FIB slicing, SEM imaging, and other preparation and visualization techniques operating in the keV range are well-established in geosciences, but researchers are often unaware of the potential for reduction of Mn and possibly other elements in the samples’ surface layers.

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