A field method for making a quantitative estimate of altered tuff in sandstone

Trace Elements Investigations 174

This report concerns work done on behalf of the Division of Raw Materials of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
DOI: 10.3133/tei174



The use of benzidine to identify altered tuff in sandstone is practical for field or field laboratory studies associated with stratigraphic correlations, mineral deposit investigations, or paleogeographic interpretations. The method is based on the ability of saturated benzidine (C12H12N2) solution to produce a blue stain on montmorillonite-bearing tuff grains. The method is substantiated by the results of microscopic, X-ray spectrometer, and spectrographic tests which lead to the conclusion that: (1) the benzidine stain test differentiates grains of different composition, (2) the white or gray grains which are stained a uniform blue color are fragments of altered tuff, and (3) white or gray grains which stain in a few small spots are probably silicified tuff. The amount of sand grains taken from a hand specimen or an outcrop which will be held by a penny is spread out on a nonabsorbent white surface and soaked with benzidine for 5 minutes. The approximate number blue grains and the average grain size are used in a chart to determine a reference number which measures relative order of abundance. The chart, based on a volume relationship, corrects for the variation in the number of grains in the sample as the grain size varies.

Practical use of the method depends on a knowledge of several precautionary measures as well as an understanding of the limitations of benzidine staining tests.

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USGS Numbered Series
A field method for making a quantitative estimate of altered tuff in sandstone
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Trace Elements Investigations
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U.S. Geological Survey
11 p.