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Evaluating the Effect of Hydrofluoric Acid Etching on Quartz Grains using Microscope Image Analysis, Laser Diffraction and Weight Loss Particle Size Estimate


In this work we investigate the quartz etching process using hydrofluoric acid for trapped charge dating (TCD) applications. It is done using material collected from an active sand mine in Bełchatów Nowy Świat, central Poland. Approximately 20 kg of material was collected and prepared using routine procedures that are applied in TCD laboratories. The material was sieved using 180–200 μm meshes, and the selected fraction was etched for various time intervals. Sieved samples were etched for durations from 0 min up to 180 min and measured with microscope image analysis (IA), laser diffraction (LD), and mass loss which were used to estimate the depths of etching. Our results show statistical data on how non-uniform the etching process is. We estimate this as a function of etching time from IA, LD and mass loss. In our investigation, mass loss measurements with the assumption of spherical grains correspond to the decrease of radius of ca. 0.151 ± 0.003 μm · min−1. In case of LD, a rough etch depth estimation corresponds to a range 0.06–0.18 μm · min−1 with median at 0.13 μm · min−1. Microscope IA gives a 0.03–0.09 μm · min−1 with a median at 0.05 μm · min−1. Moreover, quartz grains are fractured into smaller pieces while etching. It means that assumptions that are used in etch depth estimation from mass loss are not correct. They incorrect not only because grains are not spheres but also because the number of grains is not constant. Therefore, the etch depth estimated from mass loss might be overestimated. Using microscope IA we report etch depth ranges that might be used to roughly estimate the etch depth uncertainty.

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