A member of the phosphate group of minerals, the world's major source of phosphorus, found as variously coloured, glassy crystals, masses, or nodules. Much of it has a chemical composition approximating Ca5(PO4)3(F,Cl,OH). If not for its softness, apatite would be a popular gemstone; some of the material found is clear, but it is fragile and difficult to cut and polish.
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Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxylapatite, fluorapatite, and chlorapatite, named for high concentrations of OH−, F−, or Cl− ions, respectively, in the crystal. The formula of the admixture of the three most common endmembers is written as Ca5(PO4)3(OH, F, Cl), and the formulae of the individual minerals are written as Ca5(PO4)3(OH), Ca5(PO4)3F and Ca5(PO4)3Cl, respectively.
Apatite is one of few minerals that are produced and used by biological micro-environmental systems. Apatite has a Moh's Scale hardness of 5. Hydroxylapatite is the major component of tooth enamel. A relatively rare form of apatite in which most of the OH groups are absent and containing many carbonate and acid phosphate substitutions is a large component of bone material.
Fluorapatite (or fluoroapatite) is more resistant to acid attack than is hydroxyapatite. For this reason, toothpaste typically contain a source of fluoride anions (e.g. sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate). Similarly, fluoridated water allows exchange in the teeth of fluoride ions for hydroxyl groups in apatite. Too much fluoride results in dental fluorosis and/or skeletal fluorosis.
Fission tracks in apatite are commonly used to determine the thermal history of orogenic (mountain) belts and of sediments in sedimentary basins. (U-Th)/He dating of apatite is also well-established for use in determining thermal histories and other, less typical applications such as paleo-wildfire dating.
Attempt to Dating of Accretion in the West Carpathian Flysch Belt: Apatite Fission Track Thermochronology of Tuff Layers
Jan 01, 2006; The Carpathians are a part of the European Alpine chain created by convergence and collision of the European and African plates...