Hematite (α-Fe2O3) quantification in sedimentary magnetism: limitations of existing proxies and ways forward

Andrew P. Roberts, Xiang Zhao, David Heslop, Alexandra Abrajevitch, Yen Hua Chen, Pengxiang Hu, Zhaoxia Jiang, Qingsong Liu, Brad J. Pillans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Determination of hematite contributions to sedimentary magnetizations is an important but difficult task in quantitative environmental studies. The poorly crystalline and fine-grained nature of hematite nanoparticles makes quantification of their concentrations in natural environments challenging using mineralogical and spectroscopic methods, while the weak magnetization of hematite and often significant superparamagnetic nanoparticle concentrations make quantification difficult using magnetic remanence measurements. We demonstrate here that much-used magnetic parameters, such as the S-ratio and ‘hard’ isothermal remanent magnetization (HIRM), tend to significantly underestimate relative and absolute hematite contents, respectively. Unmixing of isothermal remanent magnetization (IRM) acquisition curves is among the more suitable approaches for defining magnetic mineral contributions, although it has under-appreciated uncertainties that limit hematite quantification. Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and other methods can enable relative hematite and goethite content quantification under some conditions. Combined use of magnetic, mineralogical, and spectroscopic approaches provides valuable cross-checks on estimated hematite contents; such an integrated approach is recommended here. Further work is also needed to rise to the challenge of developing improved methods for hematite quantification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalGeoscience Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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