2.4 Silicate Minerals

The vast majority of the mineral that consist of the rocks the Earth’s crust space silicate minerals. These encompass minerals such as quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, pyroxene, olivine, and a an excellent variety the clay minerals. The structure block of every one of these minerals is the silica tetrahedron, a combination of 4 oxygen atoms and one silicon atom. These are 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 of the 4 oxygen ions has a charge of –2, the silica tetrahedron has actually a net fee of –4.

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

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

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



Exercise 2.3 do a Tetrahedron

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

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

If you room doing this in a classroom, shot joining her tetrahedron through others right into pairs, rings, solitary and dual chains, sheets, and even three-dimensional frameworks.

In olivine, unlike most other silicate minerals, the silica tetrahedra space not external inspection to every other. They are, however, external inspection to the iron and/or magnesium as displayed on number 2.10.

Figure 2.10 A relenten of the structure of olivine as seen from above. The formula because that this particular olivine, which has three Fe ion for each Mg ion, could be written: Mg0.5Fe1.5SiO4.

As already noted, the +2 ions of iron and also magnesium are similar in dimension (although not rather the same). This permits them come substitute for each various other in part silicate minerals. In fact, the typical ions in silicate minerals have actually a wide selection of sizes, as displayed in number 2.11. Every one of the ions shown are cations, other than for oxygen. Note that iron deserve to exist together both a +2 ion (if that loses 2 electrons throughout ionization) or a +3 ion (if it loser three). Fe2+ is recognized as ferrous iron. Fe3+ is known as ferric iron. Ionic radii are crucial to the composition of silicate minerals, so we’ll be introduce to this chart again.

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

The framework of the single-chain silicate pyroxene is displayed on numbers 2.12 and also 2.13. In pyroxene, silica tetrahedra are linked together in a single chain, whereby one oxygen ion from each tetrahedron is mutual with the nearby tetrahedron, hence there room fewer oxygens in the structure. The result is that the oxygen-to-silicon ratio is reduced than in olivine (3:1 instead of 4:1), and the net charge per silicon atom is much less (–2 instead of –4), due to the fact that fewer cations are essential to balance the charge. Pyroxene compositions room of the type MgSiO3, FeSiO3, and CaSiO3, or some mix of these. Pyroxene can likewise be created as (Mg,Fe,Ca)SiO3, whereby the elements in the brackets deserve to be existing in any proportion. In other words, pyroxene has actually one cation because that each silica tetrahedron (e.g., MgSiO3) when olivine has two (e.g., Mg2SiO4). Because each silicon ion is +4 and also each oxygen ion is –2, the three oxygens (–6) and also 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 to balance the –4 fee of an diverted tetrahedron.

The structure of pyroxene is much more “permissive” 보다 that the olivine — an interpretation that cations with a more comprehensive range the ionic radii can fit into it. It is why pyroxenes have the right to have steel (radius 0.63 Å) or magnesium (radius 0.72 Å) or calcium (radius 1.00 Å) cations.

Figure 2.12 A explicate of the structure of pyroxene. The tetrahedral chains proceed to left and also right and also each is interspersed through a collection of divalent cations. If these are Mg ions, climate the formula is MgSiO3.
Figure 2.13 A single silica tetrahedron (left) with four oxygen ion per silicon ion (SiO4). Part of a single chain the tetrahedra (right), whereby the oxygen atoms at the adjoining corners space shared between two tetrahedra (arrows). For a really long chain the resulting proportion of silicon come oxygen is 1 come 3 (SiO3).

Exercise 2.4 Oxygen Deprivation

The diagram below represents a single chain in a silicate mineral. Counting the number of tetrahedra versus the variety of oxygen ion (yellow spheres). Every tetrahedron has one silicon ion for this reason this should give the proportion of Si come O in single-chain silicates (e.g., pyroxene).


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


In amphibole structures, the silica tetrahedra are attached in a dual chain that has an oxygen-to-silicon ratio reduced than the of pyroxene, and hence still under cations are important to balance the charge. Amphibole is even much more permissive than pyroxene and also its compositions have the right to be an extremely complex. Hornblende, for example, can encompass sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum, silicon, oxygen, fluorine, and also the hydroxyl ion (OH–).

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

Figure 2.14 Biotite mica (left) and muscovite mica (right). Both space sheet silicates and also split easily into thin layers follow me planes parallel to the sheets. Biotite is dark favor the other iron- and/or magnesium-bearing silicates (e.g., olivine, pyroxene, and amphibole), while muscovite is light coloured. (Each sample is around 3 cm across.)

Apart from muscovite, biotite, and also chlorite, over there are plenty of other sheet silicates (or phyllosilicates), which usually exist as clay-sized pieces (i.e., less than 0.004 mm). These encompass the clay minerals kaolinite, illite, and smectite, and although castle are an overwhelming to study because of your very tiny size, they are extremely important materials of rocks and especially that soils.

All the the sheet silicate minerals also have water in their structure.

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

The three main feldspar minerals space potassium feldspar, (a.k.a. K-feldspar or K-spar) and two types of plagioclase feldspar: albite (sodium only) and also anorthite (calcium only). As is the case for iron and also magnesium in olivine, over there is a continuous range that compositions (solid equipment series) in between albite and also anorthite in plagioclase. This is due to the fact that the calcium and also sodium ions are almost identical in size (1.00 Å matches 0.99 Å). Any type of intermediate compositions between CaAl2Si3O8 and also NaAlSi3O8 deserve to exist (Figure 2.15). This is a little bit how amazing because, although they space very similar in size, calcium and also sodium ion don’t have the same charge (Ca2+ matches Na+). This trouble is accounted for by corresponding substitution that Al3+ because that Si4+. Therefore, albite is NaAlSi3O8 (one Al and three Si) while anorthite is CaAl2Si2O8 (two Al and two Si), and also plagioclase feldspars of intermediary composition have intermediate proportions the Al and Si. This is referred to as a “coupled-substitution.”

The intermediate-composition plagioclase feldspars room oligoclase (10% come 30% Ca), andesine (30% come 50% Ca), labradorite (50% to 70% Ca), and bytownite (70% to 90% Ca). K-feldspar (KAlSi3O8) has actually a slightly different structure than that that plagioclase, owing to the larger size that the potassium ion (1.37 Å) and also because of this big size, potassium and sodium perform not readily substitute for each other, except at high temperatures. These high-temperature feldspars are likely to be uncovered only in volcano rocks due to the fact that intrusive igneous rocks cool slowly enough to short temperatures for the feldspars to change into among the lower-temperature forms.

Figure 2.15 Compositions of the feldspar minerals

In quartz (SiO2), the silica tetrahedra are bonded in a “perfect” three-dimensional framework. Every tetrahedron is bonded to 4 other tetrahedra (with an oxygen shared at every corner of each tetrahedron), and as a result, the ratio of silicon come oxygen is 1:2. Because the one silicon cation has actually a +4 charge and the two oxygen anions each have actually a –2 charge, the charge is balanced. There is no need for aluminum or any kind of of the various other cations together as salt or potassium. The hardness and also lack the cleavage in quartz result from the strong covalent/ionic bond characteristic of the silica tetrahedron.

Exercise 2.5 Ferromagnesian Silicates?

Silicate minerals space classified as being either ferromagnesian or non-ferromagnesian depending on whether or not they have iron (Fe) and/or magnesium (Mg) in their formula. A variety of minerals and their recipe are listed below. For each one, indicate 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, especially the more complex ones, have actually been simplified.