Nano-FTIR for Geochemical Sample Analysis
Abstract:Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for chemical identification, providing a direct connection between chemical compounds found in the laboratory and those found in natural samples including remote astrophysical environments. However, a well known limitation of using conventional IR spectroscopy is its spatial resolution determined by the wavelength of IR photons. Thus, while other techniques such as XANES and micro-Raman are capable of limited functional group mapping at tens to hundreds of nanometers, their use is limited by accessibility (the need for synchrotron beamlines) or the need for intense irradiation conditions (Raman) that can lead to sample alteration. These limitations and the wealth of information that can be extracted from detailed studies of unique micron-sized samples brought back by recent sample return missions such as NASA’s Stardust mission, have motivated the development of a novel infrared mapping technique that is capable of mapping the chemical functional properties of geochemical samples with submicron resolutions.
Here we describe our nano-FTIR imaging and analysis technique that allows us to bypass diffraction limited sample imaging in the infrared. Here we show, for the first time, that 1) the combination of an atomic-force microscope (AFM) and laser can be used to obtain the FTIR-equivalent spectra on spatial scales that are much smaller than the wavelength of IR radiation used 2) this technique responds to subtle shifts in cation concentrations as evidenced by changes in the frequencies of phonons at sub-micron scales 3) this technique can be used to identify regions of crystalline and semi-crystalline materials as demonstrated in our analysis of a cometary dust grain Iris. This work has clear implications for interpretations of astronomical observations and adds a new technique for the non-destructive characterization of terrestrial and extraterrestrial samples.