Unmixing 40Ar/39Ar Muscovite Ages Using Powder X-ray Diffraction
Abstract:Whole rock powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) experiments from eight samples collected across a retrograde ductile shear zone in the Devonian Littleton Formation near Claremont, NH, exhibit broad and asymmetric to bimodal muscovite 00l reflections. These composite 00l reflections exhibit a systematic change in shape with increasing retrograde strain. Microtextural relationships, electron microprobe quantitative analyses, and element mapping indicate that the change in peak shape reflects progressive dissolution of metastable Na-rich muscovite and the precipitation of stable Na-poor muscovite.
40Ar/39Ar step heating experiments on muscovite concentrates from these samples show a decrease in total gas age from 274 to 258 Ma as the highest strain zone is approached, and steps within individual spectra range in age by ~20 m.y. The correlation between age and 00l peak shape suggests that the argon isotopic system also tracks the dissolution-precipitation process. Furthermore, the variation in age during step heating indicates that these populations exhibit different in-vacuo degassing behavior.
Comparison of whole rock and muscovite concentrate XRD patterns from the same samples shows that the mineral separation process can fractionate these muscovite populations. With this knowledge, four muscovite concentrates were prepared from a single hand sample, analyzed by XRD, and dated. Combining modal estimates from XRD experiments with total gas ages, the four splits narrowly define a mixing line that resolves end-member ages of 250 and 300 Ma for the neocrystallized and earlier high grade populations of muscovite, respectively. These ages are consistent with age data from all other samples.
The results show that, in some settings, powder XRD provides a powerful and time effective method to both identify the existence of and establish the proportions of multiple compositional populations of muscovite prior to 40Ar/39Ar analysis. This approach will be especially useful in settings where fine grain-size, intragrain zoning, and micron-scale intergrowth complicate in-situ analysis, and where impure mineral concentrates, low Cl concentrations and/or low variance in muscovite Cl/K ratios preclude chemical discrimination using isotopic compositions obtained during 40Ar/39Ar step heating experiments.