Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
19 Jul 2010
 | 19 Jul 2010

Assessing microstructures of pyrrhotites in basalts by multifractal analysis

S. Xie, Q. Cheng, S. Zhang, and K. Huang

Abstract. Understanding and describing spatial arrangements of mineral particles and determining the mineral distribution structure are important to model the rock-forming process. Geometric properties of individual mineral particles can be estimated from thin sections, and different models have been proposed to quantify the spatial complexity of mineral arrangement. The Gejiu tin-polymetallic ore-forming district, located in Yunnan province, southwestern China, is chosen as the study area. The aim of this paper is to apply fractal and multifractal analysis to quantify distribution patterns of pyrrhotite particles from twenty-eight binary images obtained from seven basalt segments and then to discern the possible petrological formation environments of the basalts based on concentrations of trace elements. The areas and perimeters of pyrrhotite particles were measured for each image. Perimeter-area fractal analysis shows that the perimeter and area of pyrrhotite particles follow a power-law relationship, which implies the scale-invariance of the shapes of the pyrrhotites. Furthermore, the spatial variation of the pyrrhotite particles in space was characterized by multifractal analysis using the method of moments. The results show that the average values of the area-perimeter exponent (DAP), the width of the multifractal spectra (Δ(D(0)−D(2)) and Δ(D(qmin)−D(qmax))) and the multifractality index (τ"(1)) for the pyrrhotite particles reach their minimum in the second basalt segment, which implies that the spatial arrangement of pyrrhotite particles in Segment 2 is less heterogeneous. Geochemical trace element analysis results distinguish the second basalt segment sample from other basalt samples. In this aspect, the fractal and multifractal analysis may provide new insights into the quantitative assessment of mineral microstructures which may be closely associated with the petrogenesis as shown by the bulk-rock geochemical analysis.