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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References

Abstract– The single-piece iron meteorite Javorje, with a mass of 4920 g, is the heaviest and largest meteorite found in the territory of Slovenia. The meteorite Javorje is a medium octahedrite with kamacite bandwidth of 0.85 ± 0.26 mm. The bulk composition of Ni (7.83 wt%), Co (0.48 wt%) and trace elements Ga (25 μg/g), Ge (47 μg/g), Ir (7.6 μg/g), As (5.8 μg/g), Au (0.47 μg/g), and Pt (13.4 μg/g) indicates that the meteorite Javorje belongs to the chemical group IIIAB. Mineral and bulk chemical compositions are consistent with other reported group IIIAB meteorites. The presence of numerous rhabdites, carlsbergite, sparse troilite, and chromite and abundance of daubréelites are in accordance with low-Ni and low-P IIIAB iron meteorites. The severely weathered surface and secondary weathering products in the interior of the meteorite suggest its high terrestrial age.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References

A rusty iron mass was found on 5 November 2009 by Mr. Vladimir Štibelj while constructing a cut for a new forest road on a steep slope in the forest at a location with coordinates 46°9′44.79′N, 14°11′29.98′E, 704 m.a.s.l., near the village of Javorje above the Poljane Valley about 30 km northwest of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The iron mass was lying in the freshly cut road bank under a thick spruce tree at a depth of 65–70 cm beneath the surface. Mr. Štibelj immediately informed a geologist, Mr. P. A. Florjančič, who brought the find to the Geological Survey of Slovenia, where it was recognized as an iron meteorite. This iron meteorite from Javorje is the third meteorite and the second iron meteorite reported from the territory of Slovenia. It is also the largest and the first meteorite in Slovenia designated as a find without an observed fall.

Samples and Analytical Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References

A smaller triangular-shaped slab with jagged edges, measuring 6.7 × 4.1 × 0.9 cm and weighing 120.8 g, was cut from the main mass of the meteorite for analyses. Both sides of the slab were ground with carborundum and polished using 6 and 3 μm diamond suspension fluids. One side of the polished sample was etched with a 5% nital solution following the procedure partly modified after Norton (2002).

Composition of minerals and phases was determined by SEM/EDS analysis carried out using a JEOL JSM 6490LV scanning electron microscope coupled with an energy dispersive system (Oxford Instruments INCA Energy). The unetched, polished side of the sample was coated with carbon, examined in the backscattered electron (BSE) mode and analyzed using semi-quantitative EDS analysis at 20 kV and 60 s acquisition time. Minerals were assessed by calculating atomic proportions of constituent elements from atomic percentages. EDS analysis was optimized for quantification using a cobalt standard and the standard ZAF-correction procedure included in the INCA Energy software (Oxford Instruments 2006).

A piece of approximately 11 g was prepared for chemical analyses, performed at ActLabs, Ancaster, Canada. Trace element fusion ICP-MS was applied to determine Fe, P, Ga, Ge, Mo, W, V, La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Eu, Gd, Dy, Er, Pb, Th, and U. Contents of Co, Ni, and Cu were analyzed by fusion ICP-OES, Pt group elements (Pt, Pd) by fire assay ICP-MS and elements As, Au, Cr, Ir, and Sb were measured by the standard INAA procedure (Activation Laboratories 2010). Accuracies of fusion ICP-MS, fusion ICP-OES, fire assay ICP-MS, and INAA were 7%, 5%, 0.5%, and 9%, respectively. The overall accuracy of the results was considered to be satisfactory for all analyzed elements.

Results and Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References

Field Observations and Physical Characteristics

The meteorite was found in the lowermost horizon of the soil profile, in partially weathered parent material of clastic bedrock belonging to Upper Carboniferous to Lower Permian beds (about 300 Ma). The partially weathered parent material consists mostly of poorly sorted sharp-edged clasts of micaceous quartz sandstones and conglomerates in the matrix of grey fine-grained shaly claystones and marlstones (Grad and Ferjančič 1976). At the site of the find, the surrounding weathered host-rocks showed no changes in structure or surface morphology that would indicate an impact event.

The meteorite is a roughly elongated and triangular-shaped single piece with dimensions of 15 × 12.5 × 11 cm and a total mass of 4920 g prior to cutting. The exterior of the meteorite is mostly foliated and brittle, covered with a thick dark brown and yellow to red brown crust of oxidation products, which suggests that the meteorite was exposed to terrestrial weathering processes for a longer period of time. On the other hand, this crust of weathered material formed a protective shell that inhibited further oxidation of inner parts of the meteorite. Terrestrial weathering particularly affected the part of the meteorite that was obviously fractured upon impact. In places where the crust of weathered meteorite material is missing, the surface textures of the meteorite clearly indicate octahedral cleavage, which corresponds to the orientation of the Widmanstätten pattern.

Mineralogy, Structure, and Structural Classification

The analyzed meteorite consists of nine different metallic minerals, which were identified in the polished section by their chemical composition, based on the EDS analysis, and categorized as major, accessory, and secondary minerals according to their relative abundance in the sample and their genesis. Identified minerals and their chemical compositions are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.   Results of semi-quantitative SEM/EDS analysis of major and accessory minerals in iron meteorite Javorje.
  nFe (wt%)Ni (wt%)Cr (wt%)Cl (wt%)S (wt%)P (wt%)O (wt%)N (wt%)
  1. =  number of analyses; n.d. = not detected.

Major mineralsKamacite2492.6 ± 3.97.1 ± 0.4n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.
Taenite1270.2 ± 6.030.1 ± 2.8n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.n.d.
Accessory mineralsRhabdite 341.7 ± 3.540.9 ± 0.9n.d.n.d.n.d.17.3 ± 0.8n.d.n.d.
Taenite border schreibersite 539.1 ± 1.750.6 ± 2.6n.d.n.d.n.d.18.3 ± 0.3n.d.n.d.
Grain boundary schreibersite 640.6 ± 6.443.5 ± 7.1n.d.n.d.n.d.17.2 ± 0.6n.d.n.d.
Massive schreibersite 348.1 ± 0.342.4 ± 1.3n.d.n.d.n.d.18.8 ± 0.3n.d.n.d.
Daubréelite1219.0 ± 0.8n.d.35.8 ± 1.4n.d.47.5 ± 2.0n.d.n.d.n.d.
Troilite 363.3 ± 3.3n.d.0.3 ± 0.1n.d.40.0 ± 2.1n.d.n.d.n.d.
Carlsbergite 512.0 ± 6.6n.d.58.1 ± 5.8n.d.6.8 ± 6.3n.d.n.d.22.5 ± 2.2
Chromite 121.6n.d.41.5n.d.n.d.n.d.35.9n.d.
Secondary weathering productsIron oxyhydroxide 657.1 ± 13.33.1 ± 2.8n.d.n.d.0.3 ± 0.2n.d.36.9 ± 3.3n.d.
Iron oxyhydroxide (Cl) 752.1 ± 3.92.5 ± 2.0n.d.17.2 ± 1.8n.d.n.d.31.1 ± 3.0n.d.
 
Major Minerals

Kamacite and taenite are the most abundant Fe- and Ni-bearing phases in the analyzed sample and represent the two major metallic minerals.

Kamacite mainly occurs as large plates or bands, which are very distinct and have straight to slightly curved edges. They form well-defined Widmanstätten patterns, which are oriented in three general directions with slightly different angles of intersection (Fig. 1). The measured average width of kamacite bands is 0.99 ± 0.3 mm (N = 50). After applying the correction method of Frost (1965), the true kamacite bandwidth was estimated at 0.85 ± 0.26 mm. The average kamacite bandwidth places meteorite Javorje structurally among medium octahedrites. Kamacite bands have an average Ni content of 7.1 ± 0.4 wt% (N = 24), ranging between 6.4 and 8 wt%. Their nucleation temperature was estimated at 610–620 °C from the Fe-Ni-P diagram (Yang and Goldstein 2005). Homogeneous kamacite fields with a thickness ranging between 0.69 and 1 mm and averaging 0.88 mm were found enveloping several sulfide inclusions as swathing kamacite, formed by exsolution from taenite (Buchwald 1977).

image

Figure 1.  The polished and etched side of the section showing Widmanstätten pattern. The oxidation penetrated deep into the interior of the meteorite. Scale bar is 1 cm.

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Taenite usually forms thin lamellae between kamacite bands or occurs in the form of high-Ni phase, rimming plessite fields, and as rare spheroidized blebs within plessitic structures. Taenite lamellae have an average width of 23 μm and the central Ni content ranging between 26.1 and 33.9 wt%, with an average value of 30.1 ± 2.8 wt% (N = 12). Based on the correlation between the central Ni content and the half-width of the taenite lamellae the average cooling rate of 116 °C/Myr was assessed. At the outer edges of taenite lamellae adjacent to kamacite, high-Ni taenite films about 0.6 μm thick with mean Ni content of 43.9 ± 1.4 wt% form outer taenite rims, which are revealed after etching (Fig. 2a). These films sometimes exhibit tetrataenite (Ni > 50 wt%) composition. Taenite lamellae at the boundaries between kamacite bands usually thicken toward their ends and form triangular structures (wedges), which sometimes display martensitic centers (Fig. 2b) interpreted as a result of martensitic transformations of taenite (Bartoschewitz and Spettel 2001).

image

Figure 2.  SEM (backscattered electron) images of Javorje meteorite. a) Taenite (Tae) lamella in kamacite (Ka), associated with taenite border schreibersite (TBSch), revealed a Ni-rich outer taenite rim (OTR) after etching. b) Triangular taenite structure-wedge (Tae) in kamacite (Ka) displays a martensitic center (Ma). c) Euhedral prismatic rhabdite crystals (Rh) form net-like inclusions parallel to crystallographic axes of kamacite (Ka). d) Massive daubréelite grain (Dau) in kamacite (Ka) is rimmed with a thin layer of minute carlsbergite crystals (Car) and associated with grain boundary schreibersite (Sch). Note that carlsbergite is overgrown by grain boundary schreibersite. e) Subhedral massive schreibersite (Msch) associated with taenite (Tae) in kamacite (Ka). f) Fractured troilite inclusion (Tr) with daubréelite exsolution lamellae (Dau) in kamacite (Ka). Fractures (Fr) are filled with high-Ni phase. Kamacite around troilite oxidized into iron oxyhydroxides (Fe-ox).

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Plessite forms relatively large polyhedral fields among kamacite bands, with an average length of 4.3 mm (N = 24), ranging from 1 to 10.4 mm. Plessite occurs in four textural varieties. Comb and net plessites are common, while cellular and martensitic plessites are less frequent. The central Ni content in outermost taenite lamellae bordering plessite fields varies from plessite to plessite and ranges between 15 and 57 wt%. Some martensitic plessites have fine microstructures consisting of low-Ni kamacite matrix (Ni = 2 wt%) and precipitates of high-Ni taenite, probably tetrataenite. Since the Ni content in martensitic plessites ranges between 17.7 and 28.4 wt% with an average of 21.9 wt% and strongly exceeds the bulk Ni content of the meteorite, these microstructures could have formed by decomposition of martensite at relatively low temperatures as suggested by Yang and Goldstein (2005).

Accessory Minerals

Accessory minerals that were identified in the analyzed sample are iron-nickel phosphides, daubréelite, troilite, carlsbergite, and chromite.

Iron-nickel phosphides occur as numerous needle-like rhabdites, grain boundary, and taenite border schreibersite inclusions, and scarce massive schreibersite. Long euhedral prismatic and acicular rhabdite crystals, which are perpendicular to each other, form net-like inclusions in kamacite (Fig. 2c) parallel to the crystallographic axes of kamacite. The average dimensions of rhabdite crystals are between 2 and 3 μm in transverse cross sections and between 0.5 and 1 mm in length. The average sizes of rhabdite crystals indicate that they are most probably microrhabdites (Clarke and Goldstein 1978; Geist et al. 2005), with mean Ni values of 40.9 wt%. Grain boundary schreibersite (Fig. 2d) is typically associated with massive and barred daubréelite and sometimes troilite as 13.6–97.9 μm large euhedral to subhedral grains with an average Ni content of 43.5 wt%. Taenite border schreibersite with dimensions ranging from 8 to 22 μm and averaging 16.2 μm occurs along kamacite-taenite interfaces (Fig. 2a). With an average Ni content of 50 wt%, taenite border schreibersite contains the highest Ni values among all measured iron-nickel phosphides. Scarce massive schreibersites (Fig. 2e) mainly occur in kamacite as large subhedral grains with an average grain size of 45 μm (range from 11 to 121 μm) and mean Ni content of 42.4 wt% (Table 1).

According to Clarke and Goldstein (1978), massive schreibersites are formed by heterogeneous subsolidus nucleation at temperatures above 850 °C and relatively high P contents. Since the bulk P content in Javorje iron is very low, the presence of scarce massive schreibersites could be explained by the local supersaturation of taenite with P at temperatures above 850 °C. However, other iron-nickel phosphides formed by exsolution after the formation of Widmanstätten patterns when the kamacite or taenite became saturated with P (Yang and Goldstein 2005). Heterogeneous nucleation of taenite border and grain boundary schreibersites began at kamacite-taenite interfaces at about 500 °C and continued successively over a range of decreasing temperatures by grain boundary diffusion (Clarke and Goldstein 1978). Orientation of microrhabdites in kamacite bands indicates that they most probably homogeneously nucleated in kamacite at about 400 °C as a consequence of supersaturation of kamacite with P (Clarke and Goldstein 1978).

Daubréelite occurs mostly as individual euhedral to subhedral massive daubréelite (Fig. 2d), as barred daubréelite with very thin troilite exsolution lamellae, and as irregular exsolution lamellae and veinlets in troilite inclusions. Daubréelite was also found associated with chromite. The size of daubréelite grains ranges from 14.9 to 201.7 μm, with an average value of 78.1 μm. In some massive daubréelite grains, minor amounts of Zn (2.5 wt%) that partially substitutes for Fe in daubréelite crystal lattice were measured.

Troilite is scarce and occurs in the form of large rounded elongated inclusions enveloped in swathing kamacite, as individual subhedral grains at the interfaces between kamacite bands, and as very thin exsolution lamellae in barred daubréelite. Troilite inclusions probably formed in solid state at temperatures above the nucleation temperature of surrounding kamacite and served as nuclei for the growth of swathing kamacite. The size of troilite ranges between 0.82 and 2.74 mm in length and between 0.46 and 0.92 mm in width. Some of the troilite grains are strongly fractured (Fig. 2f). Microfractures approximately 1.5 μm in width are filled with minute crystals of high-Ni phase with Ni content >72 wt%. The Ni content corresponds to minerals heazlewoodite or awaruite; however, the EDS analysis showed 11 wt% S and 15 wt% Fe, which is considerably below S content in ideal heazlewoodite or Fe content in ideal awaruite. Since crystals of high-Ni phase are very small, it is very likely that measured Fe and S originate from the surrounding troilite. Parallel daubréelite exsolution lamellae and veinlets up to 0.3 mm thick are common in all troilite inclusions (Fig. 2f) in Javorje iron, which is consistent with low Ni, low Au IIIAB iron meteorites (Buchwald 1977). Minor contents of Cr (0.3 wt%) (Table 1), measured in all troilite inclusions, were interpreted as a result of incomplete exsolution of daubréelite from the FeS-CrS solid solution.

Carlsbergite is relatively rare in Javorje iron. It only occurs as minute euhedral crystals with an average length of 0.9 μm and width of 0.7 μm, which form rims up to 0.7 μm thick around individual grains of massive daubréelite (Fig. 2d). Where daubréelite is associated with grain boundary schreibersite, carlsbergite rims underlie the grain boundary schreibersite. This suggests that carlsbergite formed after the formation of daubréelite, but before nucleation of grain boundary schreibersite. Analysis of minute carlsbergite showed relatively high contents of Fe (12 wt%) and S (6.8 wt%) (Table 1), originating from the adjacent daubréelite.

Chromite occurs associated with troilite and daubréelite in one large troilite-chromite-daubréelite inclusion with outer dimensions of about 2 mm in length and 0.4 mm in width. The inclusion has a sandwich-like structure consisting of three parallel layers of troilite (70 μm) and daubréelite (120 μm) on the outermost sides and chromite in the center (210 μm). Scarcity of chromite seems to be consistent with low Ni, low Au, high Ir IIIAB iron meteorites (Wasson et al. 1999). However, the association of large chromite with troilite indicates the incompatibility of Cr and presence of Cr-rich trapped melt within crystallizing solid (Wasson et al. 1999). The troilite-chromite-daubréelite association could also be explained by the oxidation of daubréelite grains in the presence of the residual trapped melt within crystallizing solid, which became enriched in O during the progressing crystallization of the core (Kracher 1983; Olsen et al. 1999). The oxidation of daubréelite usually results in the formation of chromite and troilite (Olsen et al. 1999) and residual daubréelite.

Secondary Weathering Products

Terrestrial weathering strongly affected the exterior of the meteorite and formed a thick crust of secondary weathering products. Weathering also penetrated approximately 2–3 cm deep into the interior of the meteorite along cracks and microfractures, interfaces between kamacite bands and taenite lamellae and along mineral grain boundaries, particularly of rhabdite and daubréelite crystals. Corrosive pore solutions caused partial dissolution and oxidation of kamacite, especially at the boundaries between kamacite bands and around mineral grains. The most abundant secondary minerals and major products of Fe-Ni minerals oxidation in meteorite Javorje are Cl-free iron oxyhydroxides (goethite and/or lepidocrocite) and Cl-bearing akaganéite. Cl usually incorporates into the structure of iron oxyhydroxides from the circulating groundwater (Buchwald and Clarke 1989). Akaganéite was found deep in the interior of the meteorite as expected, since it is the first secondary weathering product to form during oxidation of Fe-Ni minerals in the meteorite (Buchwald and Clarke 1989). Akaganéite is mostly cryptocrystalline and occurs along cracks in kamacite and around some rhabdite and daubréelite grains at the corrosion front, which is in direct contact with fresh kamacite. With increasing distance from the corrosion front and progressing oxidation, akaganéite gradually passes into Cl-free iron oxyhydroxides. Cl-free iron oxyhydroxides thus occur in central parts of wider cracks as the final product of kamacite oxidation. However, the majority of Cl-free iron oxyhydroxide is concentrated in a thick crust of weathering products that covers the exterior of the meteorite. Minor contents of S (0.3 wt%; Table 1), measured in Cl-free iron oxyhydroxide, probably originate from the oxidation of sulfides such as daubréelite and troilite.

Chemical Composition and Chemical Classification

The bulk chemical composition of fresh unweathered meteorite material is given in Table 2. The bulk contents of main diagnostic elements in meteorite Javorje (Ni 7.83 wt%), Ga (25 μg/g), Ge (47 μg/g), and Ir (7.6 μg/g)) are mostly in the range typical of a magmatic group IIIAB, according to the classification given in Hutchison (2004) and Mittlefehldt (2008). Ga content in meteorite Javorje slightly exceeds the upper values for Ga in the IIIAB irons. The Ga/Ge versus Ni diagram (Fig. 3), however, shows very good correlation of Javorje iron with the main cluster of several IIIAB iron meteorites from literature data taken from Olsen et al. (1974), Malvin et al. (1984), Koeberl et al. (1986), Wasson et al. (1998), Grady (2000), Bartoschewitz and Spettel (2001), D’Orazio et al. (2004), Al-Kathiri et al. (2006), and the Meteoritical Bulletin Database (2011). The high Ga and Ge and relatively low Ni contents indicate that the meteorite belongs to the IIIA portion of the IIIAB group, according to data reported by Scott and Wasson (1975). Contents of other diagnostic trace elements Co, Au, Pt, and As in Javorje iron also show good agreement with group IIIAB (Fig. 3).

Table 2.   Bulk chemical composition of iron meteorite Javorje.
ElementUnitMethod
FUS-ICP/MSFUS-ICP/OESINAAFA-ICP/MS
  1. n.a. = not analyzed; FUS-ICP/MS = fusion inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry; FUS-ICP/OES = fusion inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry; INAA =instrumental neutron activation analysis; FA-ICP/MS = fire assay inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

Fewt%91.7n.a.n.a.n.a.
Niwt%n.a.7.83n.a.n.a.
Cowt%n.a.0.48n.a.n.a.
Pwt%0.12n.a.n.a.n.a.
Vμg/g16.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Crμg/gn.a.n.a.110.0n.a.
Cuμg/gn.a.110.0n.a.n.a.
Gaμg/g25.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Geμg/g47.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Asμg/gn.a.n.a.5.8n.a.
Moμg/g9.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Pdμg/gn.a.n.a.n.a.2.01
Sbμg/gn.a.n.a.1.6n.a.
Laμg/g204.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Ceμg/g327.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Prμg/g30.5n.a.n.a.n.a.
Ndμg/g88.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Smμg/g9.3n.a.n.a.n.a.
Euμg/g2.13n.a.n.a.n.a.
Gdμg/g5.7n.a.n.a.n.a.
Dyμg/g2.1n.a.n.a.n.a.
Erμg/g1.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Wμg/g2.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Irμg/gn.a.n.a.7.6n.a.
Ptμg/gn.a.n.a.n.a.13.4
Auμg/gn.a.n.a.0.47n.a.
Pbμg/g13.0n.a.n.a.n.a.
Thμg/g2.3n.a.n.a.n.a.
Uμg/g2.5n.a.n.a.n.a.
image

Figure 3.  Contents of trace elements and Ga/Ge ratio against Ni in several IIIAB group irons from literature data and Javorje. IIIAB data were taken from Olsen et al. (1974), Malvin et al. (1984), Koeberl et al. (1986), Wasson et al. (1998), Grady (2000), Bartoschewitz and Spettel (2001), D’Orazio et al. (2004), Al-Kathiri et al. (2006), Meteoritical Bulletin Database (2011).

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High contents of Ir and Pt and low contents of As, Au, and Co in meteorite Javorje, indicate that the meteorite formed early in the solidification process of iron core in the IIIAB parent body (Scott 1972). However, high Ga and Ge contents plotted against Ni content suggest that the fractionation of Ga and Ge between the crystallized solid and the remaining melt was negligible. Since the Ga and Ge are preferentially fractionated by their volatility (Davis 2006), their high contents could result from initially well-mixed crystallizing metal melt. A possible explanation is that the analyzed meteorite crystallized from one of the single magma chambers, which formed from initially homogeneous magma at an early stage (Haack and Scott 1993) and retained certain interaction paths between each other, probably through mixing of metal melt.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References

Acknowledgments— The authors acknowledge the financial support from the state budget of the Slovenian Research Agency obtained through the research program “Groundwater and Geochemistry” (No. P1-0020). We are grateful to Dr. Hassan Neinavaie for useful suggestions and to our technical co-worker Mladen Štumergar for help with the preparation of samples. We also thank Dr. Nancy Chabot and Dr. Stephen Kissin for their critical reviews and helpful comments and the editor Dr. Timothy Jull for handling the manuscript.

Editorial Handling— Dr. Nancy Chabot

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  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Samples and Analytical Methods
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. References
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