Abstract

High-resolution transmission electron microscopy of clay formation on K-feldspar has revealed the existence of intermediate states between feldspar and crystalline clay products. During the earliest weathering stages of K-feldspar, a primitive clay precursor forms on the feldspar surface that is spotted by ion oxides. This reactive iron is incorporated into the primitive clay precursors, which have an ultrathin 150–200 Å (1 Å = 0.1 nm) circular form and 14–20 Å lattice images or long, curled fiber forms with varied lattice image spacings. The electron diffraction patterns of primitive clay precursors show diffuse rings at 2.65, 2.04, and 1.51 Å, suggesting low crystallinity, random orientation, and partial inheritance of the original structure. EDX step scanning analysis showed that the major-element concentrations of Si, Al, and K tend to decrease from unaltered parts to altered parts of precursors with substantial increase in Fe. Auger depth profiling showed the thickness of the primitive clay layers is 150–300 Å. The primitive clay precursors may well precede formation of spheroidal particles of halloysite, squat cylinders of halloysite or hexagonal crystalline, and tabuler halloysite (7 Å). SEM, XRD, SIMS, and SAM data support the TEM results.

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