Mid-infrared spectroscopy of laser-produced basalt melts for remote sensing application

Andreas Morlok, Christopher Hamann, Dayl Martin, Iris Weber, Katherine H. Joy, Harald Hiesinger, Roy Wogelius, Aleksandra Stojic, Joern Helbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We obtained mid-infrared spectra and major-element analyses of glasses produced in pulsed laser experiments of basalt. Materials from pits excavated in a basalt slab, as well as of a larger, separated melt droplet were studied. The results of this study show that these glasses exhibits spectral features clearly distinguishable from the unprocessed starting material. Spectra and chemistry show changes, which could be the result of not only melting but also vaporization.

Christiansen Features (CF) for the melt glass in the laser-excavated pits are at 8.3–8.5 μm, and a dominating Reststrahlen Band (RB) at 10.1–10.5 μm in wavelength. The spectra of the powdered glass droplet has a CF at 8.8–8.9 μm and a RB at 10.3–10.5 μm. The spectra are clearly different from the spectra of the surrounding starting material, which shows CF between 8.0 and 8.3 μm, and ample RBs between 9.3 μm and 14.7 μm, typical olivine, plagioclase and pyroxene features.

The results reflect the chemical composition, which shows significant losses of volatiles like K2O and Na2O, as well as of moderate volatiles like FeO, SiO2, and MgO. Refractories TiO2, Al2O3, and CaO tend to be enriched compared to the bulk starting composition. This indicates loss of material through evaporation.

While the spectra of size fractions of the powdered bulk melt glass droplet follow this trend in general, but, because of contamination by the experimental set-up, CaO was found to be strongly enriched in contrast to the other refractories TiO2 and Al2O3.

At least the composition of the glasses in the laser-excavated pits could serve as an ‘endmember’ for the sequence of glassy materials expected to be produced in high energy impact processes involving a basaltic target.

Correlation of CF with SiO2 contents and the SCFM (SiO2/(SiO2 + CaO + FeO + MgO)) index show similar behaviour of the pit melts like found in earlier studies. However, when the position of the RB in the pit glass is correlated with the SiO2 content, the result shows a different trend compared with earlier studies. Consequently, the data presented in this study could help distinguishing between surface regions formed by volcanic processes and such modified by high-velocity impacts, where evaporation could play a central role.

This is of high interest for remote sensing studies of Mercury, which, because of its proximity to the Sun, was probably affected by high-velocity impacts to a very high degree.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113410
Early online date7 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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