Metamictisation of natural zircon: accumulation versus thermal annealing of radioactivity-induced damage
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Annealing of the radiation damage generated in α-decay events is a common phenomenon in natural zircons. We have studied relationships between radiation damage, age and radionuclide content of natural zircons on a micro-scale. The degree of metamictisation was estimated by means of confocal laser–Raman spectroscopic measurements. Raman band broadening in well-ordered to moderately metamict zircons that have not experienced significant healing of the radiation damage since the time of their growth, shows a nearly linear dependence on the α-fluence. This dependence is proposed as a calibration line for examining unknown zircons in order to consider complete or incomplete damage storage, which may contribute to the understanding of the low-T thermal history of their host rocks. Seven examples for the application are presented. Radiation damage may anneal heterogeneously, with preferred re-ordering in more damaged micro-areas. Results suggest that single point defects do not anneal continuously over geologic periods of time but are, in contrast, a comparably stable type of radiation damage. In contrast to recrystallisation processes, structural recovery due to simple thermal annealing is not necessarily connected with loss of radiogenic Pb. The most prominent example for this are concordant zircons from Sri Lanka. Although they are excellent standards for U–Pb dating, Sri Lankan zircons should not be used as standards for structural radiation damage. The experimental work is completed by Monte Carlo simulations of α-decay events in zircon.
KeywordsZircon Radiation Damage Contrib Mineral Petrol Natural Zircon Metamict Zircon
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