Raman spectra of carbonaceous material in metasediments: a new geothermometer



Metasedimentary rocks generally contain carbonaceous material (CM) deriving from the evolution of organic matter originally present in the host sedimentary rock. During metamorphic processes, this organic matter is progressively transformed into graphite s.s. and the degree of organisation of CM is known as a reliable indicator of metamorphic grade. In this study, the degree of organisation of CM was systematically characterised by Raman microspectroscopy across several Mesozoic and Cenozoic reference metamorphic belts. This degree of organisation, including within-sample heterogeneity, was quantified by the relative area of the defect band (R2 ratio). The results from the Schistes Lustrés (Western Alps) and Sanbagawa (Japan) cross-sections show that (1) even through simple visual inspection, changes in the CM Raman spectrum appear sensitive to variations of metamorphic grade, (2) there is an excellent agreement between the R2 values calculated for the two sections when considering samples with an equivalent metamorphic grade, and (3) the evolution of the R2 ratio with metamorphic grade is controlled by temperature (T). Along the Tinos cross-section (Greece), which is characterised by a strong gradient of greenschist facies overprint on eclogite facies rocks, the R2 ratio is nearly constant. Consequently, the degree of organisation of CM is not affected by the retrogression and records peak metamorphic conditions. More generally, analysis of 54 samples representative of high-temperature, low-pressure to high-pressure, low-temperature metamorphic gradients shows that there is a linear correlation between the R2 ratio and the peak temperature [T(°C) = −445 R2 + 641], whatever the metamorphic gradient and, probably, the organic precursor. The Raman spectrum of CM can therefore be used as a geothermometer of the maximum temperature conditions reached during regional metamorphism. Temperature can be estimated to ± 50 °C in the range 330–650 °C. A few technical indications are given for optimal application.