Biotite is a common phyllosilicate mineral within the mica group, with the approximate chemical formula K(Mg, Fe)3AlSi3O10(F, OH)2. More generally, it refers to the dark mica series, primarily a solid-solution series between the iron-endmember annite, and the magnesium-endmember phlogopite; more aluminous endmembers include siderophyllite.
Biotite is a sheet silicate. Iron, magnesium, aluminium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen form sheets that are weakly bond together by potassium ions. It is sometimes called "iron mica" because it is more iron-rich than phlogopite. It is also sometimes called "black mica" as opposed to "white mica" (muscovite) -- both form in some rocks, in some instances side-by-side.
Like other mica minerals, biotite has a highly perfect basal cleavage, and consists of flexible sheets, or lamellae, which easily flake off. It has a monoclinic crystal system, with tabular to prismatic crystals with an obvious pinacoid termination. It has four prism faces and two pinacoid faces to form a pseudohexagonal crystal. Although not easily seen because of the cleavage and sheets, fracture is uneven. It has a hardness of 2.5–3, a specific gravity of 2.7–3.1, and an average density of 3.09 g/cm³. It appears greenish to brown or black, and even yellow when weathered. It can be transparent to opaque, has a vitreous to pearly lustre, and a grey-white streak. In its weathered yellow, sparkly form, it is a common type of “fool’s Gold” (Pyrite is the official “fool’s Gold”). When biotite is found in large chunks, they are called “books” because it resembles a book with pages of many sheets.
Biotite is found in a wide variety of igneous rocks and metamorphic rocks. For instance, biotite occurs in the lava of Mount Vesuvius and at Monzoni. It is an essential phenocryst in some varieties of lamprophyre. Biotite is occasionally found in large sheets, especially in pegmatite veins, as in New England, Virginia and North Carolina. Other notable occurrences include Bancroft and Sudbury, Ontario. It is an essential constituent of many metamorphic schists, and it forms in suitable compositions over a wide range of pressure and temperature.
It is not industrially useful, but it is mined using quarrying and underground mining (depending on the depth of the biotite) for collection purposes.
Biotite is used extensively to constrain ages of rocks, by either potassium-argon dating or argon-argon dating. Because argon escapes readily from the biotite crystal structure at high temperatures, these methods may provide only minimum ages for many rocks. Biotite is also useful in assessing temperature histories of metamorphic rocks, because the partitioning of iron and magnesium between biotite and garnet is sensitive to temperature.
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