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Olivine Crystal Structure

Kent Ratajeski
Montana State University
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In this exercise, students use the American Mineralogist Crystal Structure Database and a crystallographic visualization program such as Xtaldraw or CrystalMaker to study the temperature-dependent ordering of Mg and Fe in the M1 and M2 sites of olivine.

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mid-level mineralogy course

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This exercise is based on recent crystallographic research on the olivine crystal structure published by Redfern et al. (2000). The authors of this study synthesized Fa50 olivine olivine (MgFeSiO4) in an experimental apparatus at temperatures ranging from 100 to 1250 °C, quenched the experiments, and used in situ neutron powder diffraction techniques to investigate changes in the synthesized olivines as a function of temperature.
While this study reports cutting-edge materials research carried out with the latest crystallographic techniques, the results are educationally instructive and illustrate important concepts normally covered in an undergraduate mineralogy course.

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