Abstract

The atomic structure and nanometer-scale morphology of the {010} surface of albite, exposed by fracturing in air at room temperature, has been studied with low-energy electron diffraction (LEED) and contact atomic-force microscopy (AFM). The LEED results suggest that this surface is very similar to a simple termination of the bulk structure; however, there is evidence that the surface structure exhibits slight lateral relaxation owing to modest shifts of surface atoms as they seek equilibrium positions in this low symmetry structure. The AFM used in this study has demonstrated a lateral resolution as low as 1-10 nm depending on surface roughness (better lateral resolutions, in the range of 0.1-1 nm, are achievable) and a height resolution of 0.1 nm. Several reactive sites on the albite {010} surface have been imaged at this resolution, including very small pits and cleavage steps. These types of structure and morphological analyses on mineral surfaces have a direct application to studies dealing with mineral dissolution, sorption reactions on mineral surfaces, and fracture propagation.

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