Comparing Phyllosilicate Structures

Barb Dutrow (Louisiana State University) and Carol Ormand (SERC at Carleton College)
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In this exercise, students compare the chemistry and structures of biotite, muscovite, and chlorite.

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Learning Goals

After successfully completing this exercise, students will be able to

  • Make a visual comparison of two similar crystal structures.
  • Describe key similarities and differences of biotite, muscovite, and chlorite.

Context for Use

Although the apparent focus of this exercise is on the structures of phyllosilicates, it is also about getting students to observe the finer details of crystal structures. It can be used to develop students' attention to detail, whether or not the structure of phyllosilicates is of particular interest.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students compare the chemistry and structures of biotite, muscovite, and chlorite, including details such as which cations are found where in each mineral structure.

Phyllosilicate exercise (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1MB Jun2 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips

If students have difficulties understanding polyhedral diagrams of minerals, they may find it helpful to complete the Polyhedral Diagrams exercise prior to this one.


Student learning is assessed by grading their answers to the questions on the worksheet.

References and Resources

The images in this exercise were created using CrystalMaker software. This software allows students to examine and manipulate virtual 3D crystal structures. It is a great learning tool if your department can afford a site license.