Asbestiform Chain Silicates: New Minerals and Structural Groups

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Science  28 Oct 1977:
Vol. 198, Issue 4315, pp. 359-365
DOI: 10.1126/science.198.4315.359


The discovery and characterization of structurally ordered and disordered phases that are intermediate between amphiboles and micas have shown that the biopyriboles are a much more complex family of minerals than has previously been recognized. In addition to single-chain, double-chain, and sheet structures, there are also minerals with triple chains and with alternating double and triple chains. Many crystals exhibit disorder in the sequence of double and triple chains, and isolated chains that are wider than triple are common. This structural disorder helps to explain why asbestiform amphiboles are fibrous.

The new phases have now been found in several localities, and it is possible that similar phenomena in other minerals could also have been overlooked. In particular, there is no reason to suppose that analogous substances and structures with both single and double chains do not occur between the pyroxenes and the amphiboles. Since the pyroxenes are used extensively by geologists to assess rock histories and formation temperatures and pressures, it is essential that the extent of this type of disorder be evaluated. It is possible that what appears to be only an interesting mineralogical problem may prove to be a petrological nightmare.