29 Si Solid-State NMR Analysis of Opal-AG, Opal-AN and Opal-CT: Single Pulse Spectroscopy and Spin-Lattice T1 Relaxometry

Neville J. Curtis, Jason R. Gascooke, Martin R. Johnston, Allan Pring

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Single pulse, solid-state29 Si nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy offers an additional method of characterisation of opal-A and opal-CT through spin-lattice (T1 ) relaxometry. Opal T1 relaxation is characterised by stretched exponential (Weibull) function represented by scale (speed of relaxation) and shape (form of the curve) parameters. Relaxation is at least an order of magnitude faster than for silica glass and quartz, with Q3 (silanol) usually faster than Q4 (fully substituted silicates). 95% relaxation (Q4 ) is achieved for some Australian seam opals after 50 s though other samples of opal-AG may take 4000 s, while some figures for opal-AN are over 10,000 s. Enhancement is probably mostly due to the presence of water/silanol though the presence of paramagnetic metal ions and molecular motion may also contribute. Shape factors for opal-AG (0.5) and opal-AN (0.7) are significantly different, consistent with varying water and silanol environments, possibly reflecting differences in formation conditions. Opal-CT samples show a trend of shape factors from 0.45 to 0.75 correlated to relaxation rate. Peak position, scale and shape parameter, and Q3 to Q4ratios offer further differentiating feature to separate opal-AG and opal-AN from other forms of opaline silica. T1 relaxation measurement may have a role for provenance verification. In addition, definitively determined Q3 /Q4ratios are in the range 0.1 to 0.4 for opal-AG but considerably lower for opal-AN and opal-CT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number323
Number of pages24
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022


  • Geyserite
  • Hyalite
  • Opal
  • Provenance
  • Relaxation time
  • Silanol
  • Silicon NMR
  • Solid-state NMR


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