March 18, 2004
Mineralogists sometimes classify the silicate minerals, which include quartz and feldspar, by the directions of their strongest atomic bonds. This includes atomic units bonded into chains, sheets as well as three dimensional bonding. Chrysotile is an especially interesting example. This is the only mineral in the serpentine family that is used in the manufacture of asbestos. Valued for its fire resistant and insulating properties in construction, we now use far less asbestos because asbestos dust has been found to cause lung cancer. But chrysotile is actually a sheet silicate. The fibers are composed of tightly rolled sheet structures.