Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and its application to chemical weathering

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  • Abstract: Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is the mass spectrometry of atomic species which are emitted when a solid surface is bombarded by an energetic primary ion beam. By continually bombarding the surface of the sample with the ion beam, the atoms making up the material being studied are sputtered away. The secondary ions emitted from the surface are continually analyzed and their intensities recorded over time. The secondary ion intensities are proportional to the concentration of elements in the sample, thereby producing a semiquantitative concentration depth profile. The depth profile provides an illustration of the chemical composition of a sample as a function of depth through the surface. The SIMS technique has been applied to a wide variety of surface analytical problems and can easily be used to analyze reacted glass and mineral surfaces which have been exposed to weathering solutions. Traditional experimental studies of chemical weathering were based primarily on the analyses of aqueous solutions generated during leaching experiments. Such studies have provided valuable information concerning rates and stoichiometry of mineral dissolution reactions but have led to some confusion and much speculation regarding the mechanisms of surface processes. SIMS analyses of the surfaces of dissolving glasses and plagioclase feldspars have recently been used to help resolve a number of unanswered questions. For example, SIMS analyses of dissolving feldspars have shown how the chemical COMPosition of reacted surfaces and depth of attack vary, depending on the composition of the mineral, the pH of the leaching solution, and the presence of dissolved salts and complex-forming organic ligands.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 1994 American Geophysical Union. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Shotyk, W. and Metson, J.B. (1994) Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and its application to chemical weathering. Reviews of Geophysics 32:197-220. DOI: 10.1029/93RG02329.