Characterization of REE-Bearing Minerals and Synthetic Materials Using High Resolution Ultraviolet to Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy
Abstract:Diagnostic crystal field 4fn-4fn transition features in the ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared (NIR) region of the electromagnetic spectrum have been observed in many common rare earth element (REE)-bearing minerals. The partial filling of the 4f electron shell combined with a shielding effect caused by the fully filled 5s25p6-electron shells, which weaken any effects from external magnetic or electric fields on the electrons, makes rare earth ions unique. The narrow absorption features occur as a result of parity forbidden transitions and crystal field splitting of the trivalent REEs, and since they are well shielded, only subtle wavelengths shifts are seen in their spectral features. Synthetic single REE phosphates, carbonates, oxides, hydroxides and glasses have been measured in the lab to help identify absorption band positions that are characteristic of each REE as they occur in different minerals. Because spectral resolution is critical to identifying shifts in the absorption band positions, these materials have been measured on several different high resolution spectrometers. Using a combination of Ocean Optics USB 2000+ UV-VIS, USB2000+ VIS-NIR and ASD FS 4 spectrometers we have characterized REE-bearing materials from 0.2 to 2.5 microns with a spectral resolution of ~2 nm between 0.2 and 1.0 microns and 11 to 12 nm between 1.0 and 2.5 microns.
Results to date suggest that wavelength shifts and variations in the degree of crystal field splitting allow spectral differentiation between REE-bearing minerals. To support these results, a comprehensive suite of marine phosphates, paleo-beach placers, IOCG deposits, alkaline to peralkaline igneous complexes, pegmatites associated with alkaline magmas and carbonatite intrusives, have been measured and included in our database. Core, rock chips, billets, sediment samples and grab samples were manually scanned to identify the most intense or spectrally different REE features. While REE-bearing minerals have been measured from around the world, significant effort has been taken to characterize samples from deposits associated with ongoing USGS projects related to phosphates from the SE region of the U.S., beach placers from the east coast of the U.S., Bokan Mountain Alaska, the Pea Ridge area of Missouri, Mountain Pass California and Elk Creek Nebraska.