Rapid Raman Mapping of a Fulgurite

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A fulgurite is a naturally occurring glass formed when lightning hits sand, rock, or soil. The formation of fulgurites is accompanied by mineralogical and sometimes compositional changes, and may record information about the environment in which they were formed. A previous investigation using Raman point spectroscopy discovered the presence of anatase, a low-temperature polymorph of TiO2, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons within a fulgurite. These findings indicate that there were regions within the sample that were not subjected to temperatures of 2,000 K or more that the matrix is reported to attain when struck by lightning. This paper seeks to expand the previous research by utilizing the capabilities of a new Raman spectroscopic technological development that enables rapid mapping. The entire surface area of a cross-sectioned fulgurite (∼40 mm × 23 mm) sample was mapped allowing several regions of polyaromatic hydrocarbons and anatase to be located. Furthermore, shocked quartz was found within the boundary regions of the fulgurite, and is proposed to have resulted from contact with vaporized material during the lightning strike. Shocked quartz is typically indicative of extraterrestrial impact, yet its discovery here suggests that its formation is not exclusive to the impact process.

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Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, v. 397, issue 7, p. 2647-2658