Chemical characterization of torbanites by transmission micro-FTIR spectroscopy: Origin and extent of compositional heterogeneities
Four Permian to Carboniferous torbanites of various geographical origins were examined by transmission micro-FTIR spectroscopy on doubly polished thin sections (10-25 μm). Several types of heterogeneities (different types of organic matrix; yellow and orange Botryococcus braunii colonies) were identified and chemically characterized. Important differences were noted between the organic constituents of the matrix and the algal bodies, regarding the intensity of OH, CO, and aromatic CC absorptions. The previous IR studies of torbanites on bulk samples therefore afforded substantially biased information on the composition of B. braunii fossil colonies, on their oil potential, and on the maturity of such kerogens. Micro-FTIR spectra indicate that the organic matrix corresponds neither to an extensive breaking up of colonies nor to humic substances. This matrix is highly heterogeneous; two types were identified in the Autun sample (chiefly corresponding to degraded algal and bacterial constituents, respectively). A precise characterization of the organic matrix was made difficult, however, in Pumpherston torbanite, due to intimate mixing with minerals. The co-occurrence of yellow and orange colonies, with contrasted micro-FTIR features, in Autun torbanite neither reflects radiolysis processes nor differences in maturation and/or source algae. A specific spatial relation was observed between these two types of algal bodies and the organo-mineral matrix, thus revealing differences in colony microenvironment after deposition. The orange colonies are likely derived, in agreement with their micro-FTIR spectra and their spatial correlation with the matrix, from sedimentological and/or matrix-catalysed diagenetic transformations of some yellow colonies. This first application of micro-FTIR to kerogens confirmed the utility of this nondestructive, in situ pin-point method. Although torbanites have been extensively studied, all the analytical methods so far used only provided bulk information. Further insight into torbanite composition, origin and evolution can be obtained via micro-FTIR spectroscopy.