Abstract

Amorphous silica phases (opal-A) precipitate in nature due to the formation of dense colloids in supersaturated alkaline aqueous solutions with low relative concentrations of other ions. Opal-A dissolves and yields solutions of still relatively high silica content. In pore waters containing abundant cations, open framework polymers form which flocculate to yield opal-CT. Opal-CT becomes increasingly ordered, primarily due to preferential growth of cristobalite relative to tridymite and crystal size increase. Opal-CT dissolves to yield pore waters of low silica concentration, which allows slow growth of quartz crystals from monomeric solution. The quartz crystals then slowly increase in size and crystallinity. Carbonates appear to enhance opal-CT formation, possibly due to the activity of positively charged hydroxyl complexes. Hence, polymerization in relatively pure systems is involved in opal-A formation and polymerization in impure systems is involved in opal-CT formation, and slow growth from monomeric (low silica concentration) solutions is involved in precipitation of quartz in sedimentary realms.

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