Organic Free Radicals in Precambrian and Paleozoic Rocks: Origin and Significance

  • Pavle I. Premović


Fourteen Precambrian kerogens including seven isolated from stromatolites were studied by electron spin resonance (ESR). Organic free radicals were detected in only three of these kerogens: those from the Gunflint and Bitter Springs cherts and the Nonesuch shale. All three rocks are known to contain organically preserved microfossils. Comparative studies were conducted on the kerogens of eight fossiliferous Paleozoic rocks and a Jurassic anthracite. Careful measurements were made of g-values, line-widths, line-shapes, and integrated intensities of the observed signals. The kerogen radicals are believed to be polyaromatic structures with unpaired electrons stabilized as π electrons. The marked similarity of the ESR spectral parameters of the free radicals in Precambrian and Paleozoic kerogens and the Jurassic Vrška Čuka anthracite serves to strenghten the view that these radicals are relics of early biochemical processes.

It is suggested that chemical progenitors of Precambrian kerogens and associated free radicals are the corresponding sedimentary humic substances derived from algal and/or microbial sources. Interpretation of significant changes in spin concentration observed during pyrolysis of Precambrian kerogens containing radicals is based on published work on pure bituminous coal macerals (vitrinites and exinites) and anthracites. Experimental pyrolytic data and other evidence suggest that the Gunflint and Bitter Springs rocks have been exposed to temperatures of the order 100-150 °C during their burial histories through proximity to magmatic bodies and subsidence, respectively.


Electron Spin Resonance Humic Substance Humic Acid Electron Spin Resonance Signal Spin Concentration 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pavle I. Premović
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory for Geochemistry, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of NišNišYugoslavia

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