Development of methods for the determination of bismuth and thallium in geological materials and their significance for the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment for the degree of Master of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Massey University, New Zealand
Solvent extraction methods have been developed for the determination of thallium and bismuth in rocks. The method for thallium is based on the extraction of the chlorocomplex into methylisobutyl ketone followed by removal of the interfering chloride ion as insoluble silver chloride. The method for bismuth is based on the extraction of a stable metal complex with ammonium pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate into methylisobutyl ketone. Both elements are analysed on a electrothermal graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer. Tests on the efficiencies of the methods showed a good precision and accuracy with limits of detection of 9.5 ng/ml (ppb) for thallium and 20 ng/ml (ppb) for bismuth. Recovery studies on synthetic samples showed recoveries of >99.9% for both elements.
A geochemical study was performed on a Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary site located near Flaxbourne River, Ward, New Zealand. Investigations were carried out to determine the enrichment of thallium and bismuth in the stratigraphic column. The results show a good correlation between the iridium and thallium content throughout the rock sequence, but the samples have very low bismuth contents. This is indicative of the different geochemical behavior of bismuth to other chalcophiles. These findings do not contradict the impact theory initially hypothesized by Alvarez et al. (1980), and instead suggest that bismuth's mobility and solubility are far greater than those of thallium and the other chalcophile elements enriched in the Flaxbourne River sequence. This results in the leaching of bismuth from the stratigraphic column by sea water after deposition.