Back to overview Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Volume (Issue) 141
Page(s) 381 - 406
Title of proceedings Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2014.06.036


Cathodoluminescence (CL) studies have previously shown that some secondary fluid inclusions in luminescent quartz are surrounded by dark, non-luminescent patches, resulting from fracture-sealing by late, trace-element-poor quartz. This finding has led to the tacit generalization that all dark CL patches indicate influx of low temperature, late-stage fluids. In this study we have examined natural and synthetic hydrothermal quartz crystals using CL imaging supplemented by in-situ elemental analysis. The results lead us to propose that all natural, liquid-water-bearing inclusions in quartz, whether trapped on former crystal growth surfaces (i.e., of primary origin) or in healed fractures (i.e., of pseudosecondary or secondary origin), are sur- rounded by three-dimensional, non-luminescent patches. Cross-cutting relations show that the patches form after entrapment of the fluid inclusions and therefore they are not diagnostic of the timing of fluid entrapment. Instead, the dark patches reveal the mechanism by which fluid inclusions spontaneously approach morphological equilibrium and purify their host quartz over geological time. Fluid inclusions that contain solvent water perpetually dissolve and reprecipitate their walls, gradually adopting low- energy euhedral and equant shapes. Defects in the host quartz constitute solubility gradients that drive physical migration of the inclusions over distances of tens of lm (commonly) up to several mm (rarely). Inclusions thus sequester from their walls any trace elements (e.g., Li, Al, Na, Ti) present in excess of equilibrium concentrations, thereby chemically purifying their host crystals in a process analogous to industrial zone refining. Non-luminescent patches of quartz are left in their wake. Fluid inclusions that contain no liquid water as solvent (e.g., inclusions of low-density H2O vapor or other non-aqueous volatiles) do not undergo this process and therefore do not migrate, do not modify their shapes with time, and are not associated with dark-CL zone-refined patches. This new understanding has implications for the interpretation of solids within fluid inclusions (e.g., Ti- and Al-minerals) and for the elemental analysis of hydrothermal and metamorphic quartz and its fluid inclusions by microbeam methods such as LA-ICPMS and SIMS. As Ti is a common trace element in quartz, its sequestration by fluid inclusions and its depletion in zone-refined patches impacts on applications of the Ti-in-quartz geothermometer.