Sub-Micrometre Resolution FIB-SEM-based ToF-SIMS Used to Map Geochemical Zoning in Four Zircon Reference Materials

Publication Name

Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research


Zircon geochemistry can vary over micrometre scales; therefore, natural reference materials need to be well characterised before being used to calculate trace element mass fractions in unmeasured samples. Moreover, reference material homogeneity needs to be ensured with the accelerating rate of geoanalytical developments to map mineral chemistry at increasingly finer scales. Here, we investigate trace element zoning in four widely used zircon reference materials: 91500, Mud Tank, Temora and Plešovice, as well as zircon crystals from the Mount Dromedary/Gulaga Igneous Complex, Australia. Sub-micrometre resolution focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) based time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and 5 μm resolution LA-ICP-MS mapping show that trace elements are zoned in all reference materials, though 91500 exhibited the least zonation. We demonstrate that FIB-SEM-based ToF-SIMS can rapidly resolve variations in trace elements (e.g., U, Th, Sc, Y, Gd, Dy, Yb and Li) at sensitivities down to the μg g-1 level with a spatial resolution of 195 nm for areas 100 × 85 μm to 959 × 828 μm. Zircon 91500 is recommended for future quantitative analyses provided that (1) the spatial distribution of elements is imaged before analysis of unknown samples and (2) it is used in conjunction with a doped glass as the primary reference material.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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