Normalizing XRF-scanner data: A cautionary note on the interpretation of high-resolution records from organic-rich lakes

L. Löwemark*, H. F. Chen, T. N. Yang, M. Kylander, E. F. Yu, Y. W. Hsu, T. Q. Lee, S. R. Song, S. Jarvis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Citations (Scopus)


X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning of unlithified, untreated sediment cores is becoming an increasingly common method used to obtain paleoproxy data from lake records. XRF-scanning is fast and delivers high-resolution records of relative variations in the elemental composition of the sediment. However, lake sediments display extreme variations in their organic matter content, which can vary from just a few percent to well over 50%. As XRF scanners are largely insensitive to organic material in the sediment, increasing levels of organic material effectively dilute those components that can be measured, such as the lithogenic material (the closed-sum effect). Consequently, in sediments with large variations in organic material, the measured variations in an element will to a large extent mirror the changes in organic material. It is therefore necessary to normalize the elements in the lithogenic component of the sediment against a conservative element to allow changes in the input of the elements to be addressed. In this study we show that Al, which is the lightest element that can be measured using the Itrax XRF-scanner, can be used to effectively normalize the elements of the lithogenic fraction of the sediment against variations in organic content. We also show that care must be taken when choosing resolution and exposure time to ensure optimal output from the measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1256
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Apr 2


  • Lake sediment
  • Normalization
  • XRF-scanning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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