Scanning electron microscope-cathodoluminescence (SEM-CL) imaging of planar deformation features and tectonic deformation lamellae in quartz


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Abstract– Planar deformation features (PDFs) in quartz are essential proof for the correct identification of meteorite impact structures and related ejecta layers, but can be confused with tectonic deformation lamellae. The only completely reliable method to demonstrate the shock origin of suspected (sub-) planar microstructures, transmission electron microscope (TEM) observations, is costly and time consuming. We have used a cathodoluminescence (CL) detector attached to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to image both PDFs and tectonic deformation lamellae in quartz to demonstrate the potential of a simple method to identify PDFs and define characteristics that allow their distinction from tectonic deformation lamellae. In both limited wavelength grayscale and composite color SEM-CL images, PDFs are easily identified. They are straight, narrow, well-defined features, whereas tectonic deformation lamellae are thicker, slightly curved, and there is often no clear boundary between lamella and host quartz. Composite color images reveal two types of CL behavior in PDFs: either they emit a red to infrared CL signal or they are nonluminescent. The color of the CL signal emitted by tectonic deformation lamellae ranges from blue to red. For comparison, we also imaged several shocked quartz grains at cryogenic temperature. In most cases, the PDF characteristics in cryo-CL images do not differ significantly from those in images recorded at room temperature. We conclude that SEM-CL imaging, especially when color composites are used, provides a promising, practical, low cost, and nondestructive method to distinguish between PDFs and tectonic lamellae, even when the simplest CL techniques available are used.