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Cathodoluminescence differentiates sedimentary organic matter types

March 12, 2024

High-resolution scanning electron microscopy (SEM) visualization of sedimentary organic matter is widely utilized in the geosciences for evaluating microscale rock properties relevant to depositional environment, diagenesis, and the processes of fluid generation, transport, and storage. However, despite thousands of studies which have incorporated SEM methods, the inability of SEM to differentiate sedimentary organic matter types has hampered the pace of scientific advancement. In this study, we show that SEM-cathodoluminescence (CL) properties can be used to identify and characterize sedimentary organic matter at low thermal maturity conditions. Eleven varied mudstone samples with a broad array of sedimentary organic matter types, ranging from the Paleoproterozoic to Eocene in age, were investigated. Sedimentary organic matter fluorescence intensity and CL intensity showed an almost one-to-one correspondence, with certain exceptions in three samples potentially related to radiolytic alteration. Therefore, because CL emission can be used as a proxy for fluorescence emission from sedimentary organic matter, CL emission during SEM visualization can be used to differentiate fluorescent from non-fluorescent sedimentary organic matter. This result will allow CL to be used as a visual means to quickly differentiate sedimentary organic matter types without employing correlative optical microscopy and could be widely and rapidly adapted for SEM-based studies in the geosciences.

Publication Year 2024
Title Cathodoluminescence differentiates sedimentary organic matter types
DOI 10.1038/s41598-024-53168-z
Authors Paul C. Hackley, Ryan J. McAleer, Aaron M. Jubb, Brett J. Valentine, Justin E. Birdwell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70252645
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center