Eberl, Dennis D. U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado.
Last reviewed:November 2019
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Fine-grained, hydrous, layer silicates that belong to the larger class of sheet silicates known as phyllosilicates. Their structure is composed of two basic units. (1) The tetrahedral sheet is composed of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra linked to neighboring tetrahedra by sharing three corners to form a hexagonal network (Fig. 1). The fourth corner of each tetrahedron (the apical oxygen) points into and forms a part of the adjacent octahedral sheet. (2) The octahedral sheet is usually composed of aluminum or magnesium in sixfold coordination with oxygen from the tetrahedral sheet and with hydroxyl. Individual octahedra are linked laterally by sharing edges (Fig. 2). Tetrahedral and octahedral sheets taken together form a layer, and individual layers may be joined to each other in a clay crystallite by interlayer cations, by van der Waals and electrostatic forces, or by hydrogen bonding.
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