A comprehensive study of clay minerals should include determination of the vacancy pattern of the dioctahedral sheet. The purpose of this report is to consider the advantages and limitations in various diffraction and non-diffraction methods for the determination of the layer types in clay minerals. Identification of trans-vacant (tv) and cis-vacant (cv) clay minerals reported here is based on powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns calculated for different polytypes consisting of either tv or cv layers, on the simulation of experimental XRD patterns corresponding to illite or illite fundamental particles in which tv and cv layers are interstratified, and on the semi-quantitative assessment of the relative content of the layer types in the interstratified structures by generalized Méring’s rules. A simple and effective method for identification of tv and cv layers in dioctahedral 2:1 layer silicates employs thermal analysis and is based on different dehydroxylation temperatures for tv and cv illite and smectite layers.

Crystal chemical analysis of various dioctahedral 2:1 layer silicates consisting of tv and cv layers indicates that compositional control is present in the distribution of octahedral cations over trans- and cis-sites. In dioctahedral smectites the formation of tv and cv layers is related to the layer composition and local order-disorder in the distribution of isomorphous cations. Dioctahedral 1M micas with abundant Fe3+ and Mg occur only as tv varieties. In contrast, 1M-cv illite, as well as cv layers in illite fundamental particles of I-S, can form only as Fe- and Mg-poor varieties. In illites and illite fundamental particles of I-S consisting of tv and cv layers, cv layers prevail when the amounts of Al in octahedra and tetrahedra are >1.55 and >0.35 atoms per O10(OH)2, respectively.

The main factors responsible for the stability of cv and tv illites have been established. Monomineral cv 1M illite, its association with tv 1M illite, and interstratified cv/tv illite occur around ore deposits, in bentonites, and in sandstones mostly as a result of different types of hydrothermal activity. The initial material for their formation should be Al-rich, and hydrothermal fluids should be Mg- and Fe-poor.

Tv and cv smectites of volcanic origin differ in terms of octahedral cation composition and distribution of isomorphous octahedral cations. Mg-rich cv smectites have random distribution of isomorphous octahedral cations, whereas in Mg-bearing tv smectites octahedral Mg cations are dispersed so as to minimize the amount of Mg-OH-Mg arrangements.

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