7.5 Chemical remanent magnetization

Equation 7.2 shows that blocking energy depends on volume. This means that relaxation time could change from very short to very long by increasing the size of the grain (see Figure 7.11). Chemical changes that form ferromagnetic minerals below their blocking temperatures which then grow in a magnetizing field result in acquisition of a chemical remanent magnetization or Chemical reactions involving ferromagnetic minerals include a) alteration of a pre-existing mineral (possibly also ferromagnetic) to a ferromagnetic mineral CRM. alteration chemical remanence aCRM or b) precipitation of a ferromagnetic mineral from solution. This section outlines a model of CRM acquisition that explains the basic attributes of this type of grain-growth CRM (gCRM).


Figure 7.12: Grain growth CRM. a) Red beds of the Chinji Formation, Siwaliks, Pakistan. The red soil horizons have a CRM carried by pigmentary hematite. b) Initial state of non-magnetic matrix. c) Formation of superparamagnetic minerals with a statistical alignment with the ambient magnetic field (shown in blue).

Magnetic mineralogy can change after a rock is formed in response to changing chemical environments. Red beds (see Figure 7.12a), a dominant sedimentary facies in earlier times, are red because pigmentary hematite grew at some point after deposition. Hematite is a magnetic phase and the magnetic remanence it carries when grown at low temperatures is an example of gCRM.

Magnetite is an example of a magnetic phase which is generally out of chemical equilibrium in many environments on the Earth’s surface. It tends to oxidize to another magnetic phase (maghemite) during weathering. As it changes state, the iron oxide may change its magnetic moment, acquiring an aCRM.

The relationship of the new born CRM to the ambient magnetic field can be complicated. It may be largely controlled by the prior magnetic phase whence it came, it may be strongly influenced by the external magnetic field, or it may be some combination of these factors. We will begin with the simplest form of CRM – the gCRM.

Inspection of Equation 7.2 for relaxation time reveals that it is a strong function of grain volume. A similar theoretical framework can be built for remanence acquired by grains growing in a magnetic field as for those cooling in a magnetic field. As a starting point for our treatment, consider a non-magnetic porous matrix, say a sandstone. As ground water percolates through the sandstone, it begins to precipitate tiny grains of a magnetic mineral (Figure 7.12c). Each crystal is completely isolated from its neighbors. For very small grains, the thermal energy dominates the system and they are superparamagnetic. When volume becomes sufficient for magnetic anisotropy energy to overcome the thermal energy, the grain moment is blocked and can remain out of equilibrium with the magnetic field for geologically significant time periods. Keeping temperature constant, there is a critical blocking volume vb below which a grain maintains equilibrium with the applied field and above which it does not. We can find this blocking volume by solving for v in the Néel equation:

vb =    Ku    .

The magnetization acquired during grain growth is controlled by the alignment of grain moments at the time that they grow through the blocking volume. Based on these principles, CRM should behave very similarly to TRM.

There have been a few experiments carried out with an eye to testing the grain growth CRM model and although the theory predicts the zeroth order results quite well (that a simple CRM parallels the field and is proportional to it in intensity), the details are not well explained, primarily because the magnetic field affects the growth of magnetic crystals and the results are not exactly analogous to TRM conditions (see e.g. Stokking and Tauxe, 1990a.) Moreover, gCRMs acquired in changing fields can be much more complicated than a simple single generation, single field gCRM (Stokking and Tauxe, 1990b).

Alteration CRM can also be much more complicated than simple gCRM in a single field. Suffice it to say that the reliability of CRM for recording the external field must be verified (as with any magnetic remenance) with geological field tests and other techniques as described in future chapters.


Figure 7.13: Depositional remanence versus applied field for redeposited glacial varves. Bo was the field in the lab. [Data from Johnson et al., 1948; figure from Tauxe, 1993.]