Minerals (Category A)


The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula (Mg+2, Fe+2)2SiO4. Thus it is a type of nesosilicate or orthosilicate. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface.

The ratio of magnesium and iron varies between the two endmembers of the solid solution series: forsterite (Mg-endmember: Mg2SiO4) and fayalite (Fe-endmember: Fe2SiO4). Compositions of olivine are commonly expressed as molar percentages of forsterite (Fo) and fayalite (Fa) (e.g., Fo70Fa30). Forsterite has an unusually high melting temperature at atmospheric pressure, almost 1,900 °C (3,450 °F), but the melting temperature of fayalite is much lower (about 1,200 °C [2,190 °F]). The melting temperature varies smoothly between the two endmembers, as do other properties. Olivine incorporates only minor amounts of elements other than oxygen, silicon, magnesium and iron. Manganese and nickel commonly are the additional elements present in highest concentrations.

Olivine gives its name to the group of minerals with a related structure (the olivine group) which includes tephroite (Mn2SiO4), monticellite (CaMgSiO4) and kirschsteinite (CaFeSiO4).

Olivine's crystal structure incorporates aspects of the orthorhombic P Bravais lattice, which arise from each silica (SiO4) unit being joined by metal divalent cations with each oxygen in SiO4 bound to 3 metal ions. It has a spinel-like structure similar to magnetite but uses one quadravalent and two divalent cations M2+2 M+4O4 instead of two trivalent and one divalent cations.


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