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Pushing Raman spectroscopy over the edge: purported signatures of organic molecules in fossils are instrumental artefacts

By Julien Alleon, Gilles Montagnac, Bruno Reynard, Thibault Brule, Mathieu Thoury, Pierre Gueriau

Posted 10 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.09.375212

Claims for the widespread preservation of fossilized biomolecules in many fossil animals have recently been reported in six studies, based on Raman microspectroscopy. Here, we show that the putative Raman signatures of organic compounds in these fossils are actually instrumental artefacts resulting from intense background luminescence. Raman spectroscopy relies upon the detection of photons scattered inelastically by matter as a result of its interaction with a laser beam. For many natural materials, this interaction also generates a luminescence signal that is often orders of magnitude more intense than the light produced by Raman scattering. Such luminescence, coupled with the transmission properties of the spectrometer, induced quasi-periodic ripples in the measured spectra that have been incorrectly interpreted as Raman signatures of organic molecules. Although several analytical strategies have been developed to overcome this common issue, Raman microspectroscopy as used in the studies questioned here cannot be used to identify fossil biomolecules. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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