The Electron-Optical Investigation of Clays
Clay minerals occur most frequently in a state too finely divided for satisfactory observation with the best optical microscopes, or for study with single-crystal X-ray techniques. The higher resolution made possible by electron-optical instruments can therefore be put to good use in the investigation of the morphologies and crystal structures of clays. It is the intention of this monograph to summarize achievements to date, to indicate problems that have perhaps not received the attention they deserve, and, as a result, to suggest lines of investigation that might prove fruitful. The first two chapters explain in some detail the various types of electron-optical equipment that are currently available, the methods of operating them to the best advantage, and interpretation of the results. The techniques for preparation of specimens are reviewed in the third chapter, with emphasis on those most suitable for clay minerals. With the exception of the last chapter, on practical applications of electron-optical methods, each subsequent chapter deals with studies on a particular class of clay minerals. Some chapters include detailed descriptions of specimen preparation or other techniques that have been developed by the authors to resolve specific problems peculiar to the minerals dealt with in those chapters. Electron microscopy and other electron-optical techniques have been used, alone or in conjunction with other methods, to investigate problems that have proved otherwise insoluble. Nevertheless, these techniques have their limitations, which must always be borne in mind, as results can occasionally be misleading. It therefore seems appropriate, at this stage, to review the methods of specimen preparation and examination, and to attempt to assess their value for investigation of clays.
The palygorskite-sepiolite group1 of clay minerals includes those minerals whose structure, greatly elongated in one direction, confers on them a fibrous or lath-like crystal habit. It has been debated whether they should be classified as chain minerals or as layer minerals by those, on the one hand, who stress the preferential development of the structure in one direction, and those, on the other, who point out that the ribbons parallel to this direction are structurally similar to all layer silicates. Nevertheless, the regular interaction of the layers results in chains and channels in the direction of elongation; these chains are bound by links that are fewer than those within the sheets, or rather ribbons, themselves, and this determines the marked fibrous morphology. The structural arrangement led Zvyagin, Mishchenko, and Shitov (1963) to interchange the a and c axes used by others (e.g. Bradley, 1940; Nagy and Bradley, 1955; Caillère and Hénin, 1961), in order to conform with the orientations in all other clay minerals. This logical choice of axes will be used throughout this chapter, so that the unit-cell dimensions approximate to: a 5·2, b 18 (= 2a√3) (for palygorskite) or 27 (= 3a√3) (for sepiolite), c 13 Å. Space-group symbols are modified accordingly.