Minerals are the building blocks of our world. Paper Masters can customize any research project you need on minerals or any one mineral to assist you in your science and geography courses.
Much like the individual atom is often considered to be the fundamental building block of all mater, so too is the mineral considered to be the fundamental building block of all rocks. According to one author, all rocks are made up of minerals-primarily oxygen and silica. While there are some pure mineral rocks-such as quartz or granite-most rocks are a collection of various minerals combined together to make up one unique substance. While minerals, in the form of rocks are quite common, minerals are unique, in that, they have specific formation properties and structures. To better elucidate these characteristics, this investigation considers the myriad of facets of minerals and their practical use in everyday life.
Despite the fact that minerals are indeed quite common, they can only be formed via three specific mechanisms. First minerals can be formed through the combination of high temperatures-usually in excess of 900° C-and high pressures at the center of the earth. Here, "the earth is composed of a molten silicate mass, called magma, from which most igneous rocks are formed". As the magma moves toward the surface of the earth-i.e. in a volcanic eruption-it begins to cool and minerals form. In addition to magma, minerals can also be formed when a gas transforms directly into a solid and when water evaporates from a water/mineral solution.
What sets minerals apart from rocks is the fact that minerals consistently have unique geometrical formations that are only characteristic of minerals. What this means is that all of the atoms in a mineral are locked together in a specific crystal lattice that is unique to that mineral. To date scientists have identified six crystal structures that are prevalent among minerals:
While minerals may be similar in composition-i.e. comprised of the same element-their crystal structure is what mitigates their individual chemistry, reactivity and appearance. To illustrate this point, one only needs to consider the carbon minerals of graphite and diamonds. While bother are comprised solely of carbon, both have strikingly different properties: graphite is black and soft while diamonds are shinny and hard. The reason for the difference between these two minerals is not the constituent element; rather it is the crystal lattice that comprises each mineral.