Micro–X-ray fluorescence (µXRF) analysis of proximal impactites: High-resolution element mapping, digital image analysis, and quantifications

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Quantitative insights into the geochemistry and petrology of proximal impactites are fundamental to understand the complex processes that affected target lithologies during and after hypervelocity impact events. Traditional analytical techniques used to obtain major- and trace-element data sets focus predominantly on either destructive whole-rock analysis or laboratory-intensive phase-specific micro-analysis. Here, we present micro–X-ray fluorescence (µXRF) as a state-of-the-art, time-efficient, and nondestructive alternative for major- and trace-element analysis for both small and large samples (up to 20 cm wide) of proximal impactites. We applied µXRF element mapping on 44 samples from the Chicxulub, Popigai, and Ries impact structures, including impact breccias, impact melt rocks, and shocked target lithologies. The µXRF mapping required limited to no sample preparation and rapidly generated high-resolution major- and trace-element maps (~1 h for 8 cm2, with a spatial resolution of 25 µm). These chemical distribution maps can be used as qualitative multi-element maps, as semiquantitative single-element heat maps, and as a basis for a novel image analysis workflow quantifying the modal abundance, size, shape, and degree of sorting of segmented components. The standardless fundamental parameters method was used to quantify the µXRF maps, and the results were compared with bulk powder techniques. Concentrations of most major elements (Na2O–CaO) were found to be accurate within 10% for thick sections. Overall, we demonstrate that µXRF is more than only a screening tool for heterogeneous impactites, because it rapidly produces bulk and phase-specific geochemical data sets that are suitable for various applications within the earth sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalGeological Society Special Publications
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021


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