Raman spectroscopy in heavy-mineral studies
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Raman spectroscopy is an innovative tool with tremendous potential, serving as a fundamental complement to a variety of provenance methods including heavy-mineral analysis and detrital geochronology. Because of its accuracy, efficiency and versatility, the results of the Raman technique are indispensable for fully reliable identification of heavy minerals in grain mounts or thin sections. Thorny long-standing problems that cannot be solved confidently with a polarizing microscope alone, such as the determination of opaque and altered heavy minerals, of detrital grains as small as a few microns, or of colourless crystals with uncertain orientation and rounded morphology, can finally be addressed. Although the method can be highly automatized, the full ability and experience of the operator is required to combine Raman data with the optical information obtained under the microscope on the same grains, which is essential for the efficient application of the method in provenance studies. This article provides exemplary Raman spectra useful for the comparison and determination of over 70 different opaque and transparent heavy-mineral species commonly found in sediments, conveying specific information on the genesis of their source rocks, and thus is particularly useful in provenance diagnoses and palaeotectonic reconstructions.