Illite is a non-expanding clay crystalline mineral. Illite is a secondary mineral precipitate phyllosilicate or layered alumino-silicate.
The space between individual clay crystals is occupied by poorly hydrated potassium cations which is responsible for the absence of swelling. Structurally, illite is quite similar to muscovite with slightly more silicon, magnesium, iron, and water and slightly less tetrahedral aluminium and interlayer potassium. The chemical formula is given as (K,H3O)(Al,Mg,Fe)2(Si,Al)4O10[(OH)2,(H2O)],but there is considerable ion (isomorphic) substitution.
It occurs as aggregates of small monoclinic grey to white crystals. Due to the small size, positive identification usually requires x-ray diffraction or SEM-EDS (automated mineralogy) analysis.
Illite occurs as an altered product of muscovite and feldspar in weathering and hydrothermal environments; it may be a component of sericite. It is common in sediments, soils, and argillaceous sedimentary rocks as well as in some low grade metamorphic rocks. The iron rich member of the illite group, glauconite, in sediments can be differentiated by x-ray analysis.
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