DSC of natural opal: insights into the incorporation of crystallisable water in the opal microstructure
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Low-temperature DSC on a wide range of opal-A and opal-CT samples was carried out to estimate the proportion of crystallisable water and to determine the size of water-filled cavities. A wide range of crystallisable water contents in the range 4.9 to 41.9% of the water contained in opals were observed, although the proportion of crystallisable water did not correlate with structure. Pore size and pore size distribution were estimated from the melt temperature depression and heat flow data, respectively. Opal-CT was observed to have smaller water-filled pores (radii < 2 nm) than opal-A (radii from 2.5 to 4.9 nm), suggesting that molecular water may be contained between nanograins in the microstructural units (spheres or lepispheres). A narrower pore size distribution was calculated for opal-CT, and no melting of the crystallisable water was observed where bulk water would be expected to melt, suggesting the absence of larger voids. The melting peaks for opal-A, on the other hand, transitioned into the melting of bulk water suggesting the presence of significantly larger water-filled pores, an observation consistent with the microstructure observed in SEM micrographs.
KeywordsOpal-A Opal-CT Porosity DSC TG
The Dr Eduard Gübelin Association for Research & Identification of Precious Stones supported these analyses with the Dr Eduard Gübelin Research Scholarship 2016. The authors would like to thank Jean-Pierre Guerbois for his precious assistance to the TG.
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