A mineral is a solid substance that is the same throughout (homogenous), has an ordered atomic structure, and a defined chemical composition.
There are thousands of minerals on the Earth, though some are far more common than others. Minerals can take the form of large, often beautiful crystals.
Minerals are the basic building blocks of rocks. For example, if you look carefully at a granite kitchen countertop, you'll see the minerals quartz and feldspar. You might also be able to see biotite, muscovite, amphibole, or pyroxene, depending on the type of granite.
The types of minerals in a rock and their relative amounts are used by geologists to classify it. Two rocks with the same minerals, but in differing amounts may have different names.
Image: A magnified polarised light micrograph showing the different minerals in granite. (credit: Pasieka/SPL)
As well as destruction, this famous California fault brings great wealth.
Professor Iain Stewart looks at the positive side of the California San Andreas Fault, a cause of major earthquakes. The fault has made the US state rich in minerals and oil and the mountains it has formed are good for agriculture and tourism. Of course, the same fault is also responsible for loss of life and destruction of property.
Anna Grayson traces the geological history of the Lizard in Cornwall.
Anna Grayson explains the geological history of a region of southern Cornwall called the Lizard. The rocks that form the Lizard are unique - it is possible to see rocks and minerals that formed deep inside the Earth.
Kate Humble visits Dolaucothi mine in Wales.
Kate Humble visits Dolaucothi mine in Wales to see rocks that are rich in gold. Expert Alwyn Annals explains the history of the rocks that now form the mine. Mineral-rich hot water concentrated the gold in the rocks of Dolaucothi mine when they were crushed and folded by a collision between continents millions of years ago.
Iain Stewart describes some of the minerals and other resources that go into a jet aircraft.
Professor Iain Stewart describes some of the minerals and other Earth resources that go into a jet aircraft.
A mineral is a naturally occurring substance that is solid and inorganic representable by a chemical formula, usually abiogenic, and has an ordered atomic structure. It is different from a rock, which can be an aggregate of minerals or non-minerals and does not have a specific chemical composition. The exact definition of a mineral is under debate, especially with respect to the requirement a valid species be abiogenic, and to a lesser extent with regard to it having an ordered atomic structure. The study of minerals is called mineralogy.
There are over 4,900 known mineral species; over 4,660 of these have been approved by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA). The silicate minerals compose over 90% of the Earth's crust. The diversity and abundance of mineral species is controlled by the Earth's chemistry. Silicon and oxygen constitute approximately 75% of the Earth's crust, which translates directly into the predominance of silicate minerals. Minerals are distinguished by various chemical and physical properties. Differences in chemical composition and crystal structure distinguish various species, and these properties in turn are influenced by the mineral's geological environment of formation. Changes in the temperature, pressure, and bulk composition of a rock mass cause changes in its mineralogy; however, a rock can maintain its bulk composition, but as long as temperature and pressure change, its mineralogy can change as well.
Minerals can be described by various physical properties which relate to their chemical structure and composition. Common distinguishing characteristics include crystal structure and habit, hardness, lustre, diaphaneity, colour, streak, tenacity, cleavage, fracture, parting, and specific gravity. More specific tests for minerals include reaction to acid, magnetism, taste or smell, and radioactivity.
Minerals are classified by key chemical constituents; the two dominant systems are the Dana classification and the Strunz classification. The silicate class of minerals is subdivided into six subclasses by the degree of polymerization in the chemical structure. All silicate minerals have a base unit of a [SiO4]4- silica tetrahedra—that is, a silicon cation coordinated by four oxygen anions, which gives the shape of a tetrahedron. These tetrahedra can be polymerized to give the subclasses: orthosilicates (no polymerization, thus single tetrahedra), disilicates (two tetrahedra bonded together), cyclosilicates (rings of tetrahedra), inosilicates (chains of tetrahedra), phyllosilicates (sheets of tetrahedra), and tectosilicates (three-dimensional network of tetrahedra). Other important mineral groups include the native elements, sulfides, oxides, halides, carbonates, sulfates, and phosphates.