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Synthesis and characterization of Fe(III)-Fe(II)-Mg-Al smectite solid solutions and implications for planetary science

  • Fox, Valerie K.1
  • Kupper, Robert J.2
  • Ehlmann, Bethany L.1, 3
  • Catalano, Jeffrey G.2
  • Razzell-Hollis, Joseph3
  • Abbey, William J.3
  • Schild, Dirk J.1
  • Nickerson, Ryan D.2
  • Peters, Jonas C.1
  • Katz, Sydney M.2
  • White, Annabelle C.2
  • 1 California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Boulevard, California 91125 , (United States)
  • 2 Washington University in St. Louis, 1 Brookings Drive, CB 1169, St. Louis, 63130 , (United States)
  • 3 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, California 91109 , (United States)
Published Article
American Mineralogist
Mineralogical Society of America
Publication Date
May 27, 2021
DOI: 10.2138/am-2020-7419CCBYNCND
De Gruyter


This study demonstrates the synergies and limits of multiple measurement types for the detection of smectite chemistry and oxidation state on planetary surfaces to infer past geochemical conditions. Smectite clay minerals are common products of water-rock interactions throughout the solar system, and their detection and characterization provides important clues about geochemical conditions and past environments if sufficient information about their composition can be discerned. Here, we synthesize and report on the spectroscopic properties of a suite of smectite samples that span the intermediate compositional range between Fe(II), Fe(III), Mg, and Al end-member species using bulk chemical analyses, X‑ray diffraction, Vis/IR reflectance spectroscopy, UV and green-laser Raman spectroscopy, and Mössbauer spectroscopy. Our data show that smectite composition and the oxidation state of octahedral Fe can be reliably identified in the near infrared on the basis of combination and fundamental metal-OH stretching modes between 2.1–2.9 μm, which vary systematically with chemistry. Smectites dominated by Mg or Fe(III) have spectrally distinct fundamental and combination stretches, whereas Al-rich and Fe(II)-rich smectites have similar fundamental minima near 2.76 μm, but have distinct combination M-OH features between 2.24 and 2.36 μm. We show that with expanded spectral libraries that include intermediate composition smectites and both Fe(III) and Fe(II) oxidation states, more refined characterization of smectites from MIR data is now possible, as the position of the 450 cm–1 absorption shifts systematically with octahedral Fe content, although detailed analysis is best accomplished in concert with other characterization methods. Our data also provide the first Raman spectral libraries of smectite clays as a function of chemistry, and we demonstrate that Raman spectroscopy at multiple excitation wavelengths can qualitatively distinguish smectite clays of different structures and can enhance interpretation by other types of analyses. Our sample set demonstrates how X‑ray diffraction can distinguish between dioctahedral and trioctahedral smectites using either the (02,11) or (06,33) peaks, but auxiliary information about chemistry and oxidation state aids in specific identifications. Finally, the temperature-dependent isomer shift and quadrupole splitting in Mössbauer data are insensitive to changes in Fe content but reliability differentiates Fe within the smectite mineral structure.

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