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Exposure dating of detrital magnetite using 3He enabled by microCT and calibration of the cosmogenic 3He production rate in magnetite

Florian Hofmann, Emily Cooperdock, Josh West, Dominic Hildebrandt, Kathrin Strößner, & Kenneth Farley

Published July 1, 2021, SCEC Contribution #10988

We test whether X-ray micro-computed tomography (microCT) imaging can be used as a tool for screening magnetite grains to improve the accuracy and precision of cosmogenic 3He exposure dating. We extracted detrital magnetite from a soil developed on a fanglomerate at Whitewater, California, which was offset by the Banning strand of the San Andreas Fault. This study shows that microCT screening can distinguish between inclusion-free magnetite and magnetite with fluid or common solid inclusions. Such inclusions can produce bulk 3He concentrations that are significantly in excess of the expected spallation production. We present Li concentrations, major and trace element analyses, and estimated magnetite (U–Th) / He cooling ages of samples in order to model the contribution from fissiogenic, nucleogenic, and cosmogenic thermal neutron production of 3He. We show that mineral inclusions in magnetite can produce 3He concentrations of up to 4 times that of the spallation component, leading to erroneous exposure ages. Therefore, grains with inclusions must be avoided in order to facilitate accurate and precise magnetite 3He exposure dating. Around 30 % of all grains were found to be without inclusions, as detectable by microCT, with the largest proportion of suitable grains in the grain size range of 400–800 µm. While grains with inclusions have 3He concentrations far in excess of the values expected from existing 10Be and 26Al data in quartz at the Whitewater site, magnetite grains without inclusions have concentrations close to the predicted depth profile. We measured 3He concentrations in aliquots without inclusions and corrected them for Li-produced components. By comparing these data to the known exposure age of 53.5 ± 2.2 ka, we calibrate a production rate for magnetite 3He at sea level and high latitude (SLHL) of 116 ± 13 at g−1 a−1. We suggest that this microCT screening approach can be used to improve the quality of cosmogenic 3He measurements of magnetite and other opaque mineral phases for exposure age and detrital studies.

Hofmann, F., Cooperdock, E., West, J., Hildebrandt, D., Strößner, K., & Farley, K. (2021). Exposure dating of detrital magnetite using 3He enabled by microCT and calibration of the cosmogenic 3He production rate in magnetite. Geochronology, 3(2), 395-414. doi: doi.org/10.5194/gchron-3-395-2021. https://doi.org/10.5194/gchron-2021-10