2.4 Silicate Minerals

The vast bulk of the mineral that make up the rocks the Earth’s crust space silicate minerals. These include minerals such together quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, pyroxene, olivine, and also a great variety the clay minerals. The building block of every one of these mineral is the silica tetrahedron, a combination of 4 oxygen atoms and one silicon atom. These space arranged such the planes drawn through the oxygen atoms type a tetrahedron (Figure 2.6). Because the silicon ion has actually a fee of +4 and each that the four oxygen ions has actually a fee of –2, the silica tetrahedron has a net charge of –4.

You are watching: The ion at the center of a silicate tetrahedron is surrounded by

In silicate minerals, this tetrahedra room arranged and linked with each other in a selection of ways, from solitary units to facility frameworks (Figure 2.9). The easiest silicate structure, that of the mineral olivine, is composed of secluded tetrahedra bonded to stole and/or magnesium ions. In olivine, the –4 fee of every silica tetrahedron is balanced by two divalent (i.e., +2) stole or magnesium cations. Olivine deserve to be either Mg2SiO4 or Fe2SiO4, or some combination of the 2 (Mg,Fe)2SiO4. The divalent cations that magnesium and iron are rather close in radius (0.73 versus 0.62 angstroms<1>). Because that this dimension similarity, and also because they are both divalent cations (both have actually a fee of +2), iron and also magnesium deserve to readily substitute for each other in olivine and also in plenty of other minerals.

Figure 2.9 Silicate mineral configurations. The triangles stand for silica tetrahedra.Tetrahedron ConfigurationExample Minerals
Isolated (nesosilicates)Olivine, garnet, zircon, kyanite
Pairs (sorosilicates)Epidote, zoisite
Rings (cyclosilicates)Tourmaline
Single chain (inosilicates)Pyroxenes, wollastonite
Double chains (inosilicates)Amphiboles
Sheets (phyllosilicates)Micas, clay minerals, serpentine, chlorite
3-dimensional structureFramework (tectosilicates)Feldspars, quartz, zeolite



Exercise 2.3 make a Tetrahedron

Cut around the exterior of the form (solid lines and dotted lines), and then fold follow me the solid lines to form a tetrahedron.

If you have actually glue or tape, secure the tabs to the tetrahedron to host it together. If girlfriend don’t have glue or tape, do a part along the slim grey line and insert the pointed tab into the slit.

If you are doing this in a classroom, try joining her tetrahedron v others into pairs, rings, solitary and twin chains, sheets, and even three-dimensional frameworks.

In olivine, unlike many other silicate minerals, the silica tetrahedra are not bonded to each other. They are, however, bonded to the stole and/or magnesium as presented on number 2.10.

Figure 2.10 A explicate of the structure of olivine as checked out from above. The formula because that this details olivine, which has actually three Fe ion for every Mg ion, can be written: Mg0.5Fe1.5SiO4.

As currently noted, the +2 ions of iron and magnesium are comparable in dimension (although not rather the same). This enables them to substitute for each other in some silicate minerals. In fact, the typical ions in silicate minerals have a wide selection of sizes, as shown in figure 2.11. Every one of the ions displayed are cations, other than for oxygen. Keep in mind that iron can exist as both a +2 ion (if the loses two electrons throughout ionization) or a +3 ion (if it loses three). Fe2+ is recognized as ferrous iron. Fe3+ is recognized as ferric iron. Ionic radii are an important to the composition of silicate minerals, so we’ll be introduce to this diagram again.

Figure 2.11 The ionic radii (effective sizes) in angstroms, of few of the common ions in silicate minerals

The framework of the single-chain silicate pyroxene is shown on numbers 2.12 and 2.13. In pyroxene, silica tetrahedra are attached together in a single chain, wherein one oxygen ion from each tetrahedron is shared with the surrounding tetrahedron, for this reason there are fewer oxygens in the structure. The an outcome is the the oxygen-to-silicon proportion is lower than in olivine (3:1 instead of 4:1), and the net fee per silicon atom is less (–2 rather of –4), since fewer cations are essential to balance the charge. Pyroxene compositions space of the kind MgSiO3, FeSiO3, and CaSiO3, or some combination of these. Pyroxene can likewise be written as (Mg,Fe,Ca)SiO3, whereby the aspects in the brackets can be current in any type of proportion. In other words, pyroxene has one cation because that each silica tetrahedron (e.g., MgSiO3) if olivine has actually two (e.g., Mg2SiO4). Because each silicon ion is +4 and each oxygen ion is –2, the 3 oxygens (–6) and the one silicon (+4) offer a net charge of –2 for the solitary chain of silica tetrahedra. In pyroxene, the one divalent cation (2+) per tetrahedron balances that –2 charge. In olivine, it takes 2 divalent cations come balance the –4 fee of an isolated tetrahedron.

The framework of pyroxene is much more “permissive” than that the olivine — definition that cations through a more comprehensive range of ionic radii deserve to fit right into it. That’s why pyroxenes can have stole (radius 0.63 Å) or magnesium (radius 0.72 Å) or calcium (radius 1.00 Å) cations.

Figure 2.12 A depiction of the structure of pyroxene. The tetrahedral chains continue to left and right and also each is interspersed through a collection of divalent cations. If these room Mg ions, climate the formula is MgSiO3.
Figure 2.13 A single silica tetrahedron (left) with 4 oxygen ions per silicon ion (SiO4). Part of a single chain the tetrahedra (right), wherein the oxygen atom at the adjoining corners space shared in between two tetrahedra (arrows). Because that a very long chain the resulting proportion of silicon to oxygen is 1 come 3 (SiO3).

Exercise 2.4 Oxygen Deprivation

The diagram listed below represents a solitary chain in a silicate mineral. Counting the variety of tetrahedra versus the variety of oxygen ion (yellow spheres). Each tetrahedron has one silicon ion so this should provide the ratio of Si to O in single-chain silicates (e.g., pyroxene).


The diagram listed below represents a twin chain in a silicate mineral. Again, counting the number of tetrahedra matches the number of oxygen ions. This should give you the proportion of Si to O in double-chain silicates (e.g., amphibole).


In amphibole structures, the silica tetrahedra are linked in a dual chain that has an oxygen-to-silicon ratio lower than the of pyroxene, and hence still fewer cations are crucial to balance the charge. Amphibole is even more permissive 보다 pyroxene and its compositions deserve to be really complex. Hornblende, for example, can encompass sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum, silicon, oxygen, fluorine, and the hydroxyl ion (OH–).

In mica structures, the silica tetrahedra space arranged in constant sheets, wherein each tetrahedron shares 3 oxygen anions with nearby tetrahedra. Over there is even more sharing the oxygens between adjacent tetrahedra and hence under charge-balancing cations are needed for paper silicate minerals. Bonding between sheets is fairly weak, and also this accounts for the well-developed one-directional cleavage (Figure 2.14). Biotite mica can have steel and/or magnesium in it and also that makes it a ferromagnesian silicate mineral (like olivine, pyroxene, and amphibole). Chlorite is another comparable mineral that commonly includes magnesium. In muscovite mica, the just cations present are aluminum and potassium; hence it is a non-ferromagnesian silicate mineral.

Figure 2.14 Biotite mica (left) and muscovite mica (right). Both are sheet silicates and split quickly into slim layers along planes parallel to the sheets. Biotite is dark like the other iron- and/or magnesium-bearing silicates (e.g., olivine, pyroxene, and also amphibole), when muscovite is light coloured. (Each sample is around 3 cm across.)

Apart native muscovite, biotite, and also chlorite, there are numerous other sheet silicates (or phyllosilicates), which typically exist together clay-sized fragments (i.e., much less than 0.004 mm). These incorporate the clay minerals kaolinite, illite, and smectite, and although lock are daunting to study because of your very little size, lock are exceptionally important materials of rocks and also especially the soils.

All of the sheet silicate minerals also have water in your structure.

Silica tetrahedra room bonded in three-dimensional frameworks in both the feldspars and also quartz. These space non-ferromagnesian minerals — castle don’t contain any kind of iron or magnesium. In addition to silica tetrahedra, feldspars incorporate the cations aluminum, potassium, sodium, and also calcium in miscellaneous combinations. Quartz contains only silica tetrahedra.

The three main feldspar minerals space potassium feldspar, (a.k.a. K-feldspar or K-spar) and also two types of plagioclase feldspar: albite (sodium only) and anorthite (calcium only). As is the instance for iron and also magnesium in olivine, there is a consistent range that compositions (solid equipment series) in between albite and anorthite in plagioclase. This is due to the fact that the calcium and also sodium ions are practically identical in size (1.00 Å versus 0.99 Å). Any kind of intermediate compositions in between CaAl2Si3O8 and also NaAlSi3O8 have the right to exist (Figure 2.15). This is a little bit how amazing because, return they are very similar in size, calcium and also sodium ions don’t have actually the same charge (Ca2+ versus Na+). This trouble is accounted because that by equivalent substitution that Al3+ because that Si4+. Therefore, albite is NaAlSi3O8 (one Al and also three Si) if anorthite is CaAl2Si2O8 (two Al and two Si), and plagioclase feldspars of intermediate composition have intermediate proportions that Al and also Si. This is dubbed a “coupled-substitution.”

The intermediate-composition plagioclase feldspars are oligoclase (10% to 30% Ca), andesine (30% to 50% Ca), labradorite (50% come 70% Ca), and also bytownite (70% come 90% Ca). K-feldspar (KAlSi3O8) has a slightly different structure 보다 that of plagioclase, owing to the larger size that the potassium ion (1.37 Å) and because of this huge size, potassium and sodium execute not readily substitute because that each other, other than at high temperatures. This high-temperature feldspars are likely to be uncovered only in volcanic rocks due to the fact that intrusive igneous rocks cool slowly sufficient to low temperatures for the feldspars to adjust into one of the lower-temperature forms.

Figure 2.15 Compositions of the feldspar minerals

In quartz (SiO2), the silica tetrahedra room bonded in a “perfect” three-dimensional framework. Every tetrahedron is external inspection to 4 other tetrahedra (with an oxygen common at every corner of every tetrahedron), and as a result, the proportion of silicon come oxygen is 1:2. Due to the fact that the one silicon cation has actually a +4 charge and the two oxygen anions each have actually a –2 charge, the fee is balanced. Over there is no need for aluminum or any of the other cations such as salt or potassium. The hardness and also lack of cleavage in quartz result from the strong covalent/ionic bonds characteristic of the silica tetrahedron.

Exercise 2.5 Ferromagnesian Silicates?

Silicate minerals room classified as being one of two people ferromagnesian or non-ferromagnesian depending upon whether or not they have actually iron (Fe) and/or magnesium (Mg) in your formula. A variety of minerals and also their recipe are noted below. For each one, show whether or no it is a ferromagnesian silicate.

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MineralFormulaFerromagnesian Silicate?
MineralFormula*Ferromagnesian Silicate?
muscoviteK2Al4 Si6Al2O20(OH)4

*Some that the formulas, particularly the more facility ones, have actually been simplified.