Fluorite

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Fluorite
3192M-fluorite1.jpg
Deep green isolated fluorite crystal showing cubic and octahedral faces, set upon a micaceous matrix, from Erongo Mountain, Erongo Region, Namibia (overall size: 50 mm x 27 mm, crystal size: 19 mm wide, 30 g)
General
Category Halide mineral
Formula
(repeating unit)
CaF2
Strunz classification 03.AB.25
Crystal symmetry Isometric H–M Symbol 4/m 3 2/m
Unit cell a = 5.4626 Å; Z=4
Identification
Color Colorless. Samples are often deeply colored owing to impurities.
Crystal habit Well-formed coarse sized crystals; also nodular, botryoidal, rarely columnar or fibrous; granular, massive
Crystal system Isometric, cF12, SpaceGroup Fm3m, No. 225
Twinning Common on {111}, interpenetrant, flattened
Cleavage Octahedral, perfect on {111}, parting on {011}
Fracture Subconchoidal to uneven
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness 4 (defining mineral)
Luster Vitreous
Streak White
Diaphaneity Transparent to translucent
Specific gravity 3.175–3.184; to 3.56 if high in rare-earth elements
Optical properties Isotropic; weak anomalous anisotropism
Refractive index 1.433–1.448
Fusibility 3
Solubility slightly water soluble and in hot HCl acid
Other characteristics May be Fluorescent, Phosphorescent, Thermoluminescencent, and/or Triboluminescent
References [1][2][3][4]

Fluorite (also called fluorspar) is the mineral form of calcium fluoride, CaF2. It belongs to the halide minerals. It crystallizes in isometric cubic habit, although octahedral and more complex isometric forms are not uncommon.

Fluorite is a colorful mineral, both in visible and ultraviolet light, and the stone has ornamental and lapidary uses. Industrially, fluorite is used as a flux for smelting, and in the production of certain glasses and enamels. The purest grades of fluorite are a source of fluoride for hydrofluoric acid manufacture, which is the intermediate source of most fluorine-containing fine chemicals. Optically clear transparent fluorite lenses have low dispersion, so lenses made from it exhibit less chromatic aberration, making them valuable in microscopes and telescopes. Fluorite optics are also usable in the far-ultraviolet range where conventional glasses are too absorbent for use.

History and etymology[edit]

Fluorite derives from the Latin noun fluo, meaning a stream or flow of water. In verb form this was fluor or fluere, meaning to flow. The mineral is used as a flux in iron smelting to decrease the viscosity of slags. The melting point of calcium fluoride is 1676 K. The term flux comes from the Latin noun fluxus, a wash or current of water. The mineral fluorite was originally termed fluorospar and was first discussed in print in a 1530 work Bermannus, sive de re metallica dialogus [Bermannus; or a dialogue about the nature of metals], by Georgius Agricola, as a mineral noted for its usefulness as a flux.[5][6] Agricola, a German scientist with expertise in philology, mining, and metallurgy, named fluorspar as a Neo Latinization of the German Flussespar from Flusse (stream, river) and "Spar" (meaning a nonmetallic mineral akin to gypsum, spærstān, spear stone, referring to its crystalline projections).[7][8]

In 1852 fluorite gave its name to the phenomenon of fluorescence, which is prominent in fluorites from certain locations, due to certain impurities in the crystal. Fluorite also gave the name to its constitutive element fluorine.[2] Presently, the word "fluorspar" is most commonly used for fluorite as the industrial and chemical commodity, while "fluorite" is used mineralogically and in most other senses.

Structure[edit]

Main article: calcium fluoride

Fluorite crystallises in a cubic motif. Crystal twinning is common and adds complexity to the observed crystal habits. Fluorite has four perfect cleavage planes that help produce octahedral fragments.

Element substitution for the calcium cation often includes certain rare earth elements (REE) such as yttrium and cerium. Iron, sodium, and barium are also common impurities. Some fluorine may be replaced by the chlorine anion.

Occurrence and mining[edit]

black, chevronned (wavy, jagged) structure
A closeup of fluorite surface

Fluorite may occur as a vein deposit, especially with metallic minerals, where it often forms a part of the gangue (the surrounding "host-rock" in which valuable minerals occur) and may be associated with galena, sphalerite, barite, quartz, and calcite. It is a common mineral in deposits of hydrothermal origin and has been noted as a primary mineral in granites and other igneous rocks and as a common minor constituent of dolostone and limestone.

Fluorite is a widely occurring mineral which is found in large deposits in many areas. Notable deposits occur in China, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, Norway, Mexico, and both the Province of Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. Large deposits also occur in Kenya in the Kerio Valley area within the Great Rift Valley. In the United States, deposits are found in Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Ohio, New Hampshire, New York, Alaska, and Texas. Fluorite has been the state mineral of Illinois since 1965. At that time, Illinois was the largest producer of fluorite in the United States, but the last fluorite mine in Illinois was closed in 1995.[9]

The world reserves of fluorite are estimated at 230 million tonnes (Mt) with the largest deposits being in South Africa (about 41 Mt), Mexico (32 Mt) and China (24 Mt). China is leading the world production with about 3 Mt annually (in 2010), followed by Mexico (1.0 Mt), Mongolia (0.45 Mt), Russia (0.22 Mt), South Africa (0.13 Mt), Spain (0.12 Mt) and Namibia (0.11 Mt).[10]

One of the largest deposits of fluorspar in North America is located in the Burin Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada. The first official recognition of fluorspar in the area was recorded by geologist J.B. Jukes in 1843. He noted an occurrence of "galena" or lead ore and fluorite of lime on the west side of St. Lawrence harbour. It is recorded that interest in the commercial mining of fluorspar began in 1928 with the first ore being extracted in 1933. Eventually at Iron Springs Mine, the shafts reached depths of 970 feet (300 m). In the St. Lawrence area, the veins are persistent for great lengths and several of them have wide lenses. The area with veins of known workable size comprises about 60 square miles (160 km2).[11][12][13]

Cubic crystals up to 20 cm across have been found at Dalnegorsk, Russia.[14] The largest documented single crystal of fluorite was a cube 2.12 m in size and weighing ~16 tonnes.[15]

"Blue John"[edit]

Right frame 
Fluoritest.jpg
Small specimen of blue fluorite from China
Main article: Derbyshire Blue John

One of the most famous of the older-known localities of fluorite is Castleton in Derbyshire, England, where, under the name of Derbyshire Blue John, purple-blue fluorite was extracted from several mines or caves, including the famous Blue John Cavern. During the 19th century, this attractive fluorite was mined for its ornamental value. The mineral Blue John is now scarce, and only a few hundred kilograms are mined each year for ornamental and lapidary use. Mining still takes place in both the Blue John Cavern and the nearby Treak Cliff Cavern.[16]

Recently discovered deposits in China have produced fluorite with coloring and banding similar to the classic Blue John stone.[17]

Fluorescence[edit]

Fluorescing fluorite from Boltsburn Mine Weardale, North Pennines, County Durham, England, UK.

George Gabriel Stokes named the phenomenon of fluorescence from fluorite, in 1852.[18][19]

Many samples of fluorite exhibit fluorescence under ultraviolet light, a property that takes its name from fluorite.[18] Many minerals, as well as other substances, fluoresce. Fluorescence involves the elevation of electron energy levels by quanta of ultraviolet light, followed by the progressive falling back of the electrons into their previous energy state, releasing quanta of visible light in the process. In fluorite, the visible light emitted is most commonly blue, but red, purple, yellow, green and white also occur. The fluorescence of fluorite may be due to mineral impurities such as yttrium, ytterbium, or organic matter such as volatile hydrocarbons in the crystal lattice. In particular, the blue fluorescence seen in fluorites from certain parts of Great Britain responsible for the naming of the phenomenon of fluorescence itself, has been attributed to the presence of inclusions of divalent europium in the crystal.[20]

The color of visible light emitted when a sample of fluorite is fluorescing depends on where the original specimen was collected; different impurities having been included in the crystal lattice in different places. Neither does all fluorite fluoresce equally brightly, even from the same locality. Therefore, ultraviolet light is not a reliable tool for the identification of specimens, nor for quantifying the mineral in mixtures. For example, among British fluorites, those from Northumberland, County Durham, and eastern Cumbria are the most consistently fluorescent, whereas fluorite from Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Cornwall, if they fluoresce at all, are generally only feebly fluorescent.

Fluorite also exhibits the property of thermoluminescence.[21]

Color[edit]

Fluorite crystals on display at the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, Houston Museum of Natural Science

Fluorite is allochromatic, meaning that it can be tinted with elemental impurities. Fluorite comes in a wide range of colors and has consequently been dubbed "the most colorful mineral in the world". Every color of the rainbow in various shades are represented by fluorite samples, along with white, black, and clear crystals. The most common colors are purple, blue, green, yellow, or colorless. Less common are pink, red, white, brown, and black. Color zoning or banding is commonly present. The color of the fluorite is determined by factors including impurities, exposure to radiation, and the absence or voids of the color centers.

Uses[edit]

Source of fluorine and fluoride[edit]

Fluorite is a major source of hydrogen fluoride, a commodity chemical used to produce a wide range of materials. Hydrogen fluoride is liberated from the mineral by the action of concentrated sulfuric acid:

CaF2(s) + H2SO4CaSO4(s) + 2 HF(g)

The resulting HF is converted into fluorine, fluorocarbons, and diverse fluoride materials. As of the late 1990s, five billion kilograms were mined annually.[22]

There are three principal types of industrial use for natural fluorite, commonly referred to as "fluorspar" in these industries, corresponding to different grades of purity. Metallurgical grade fluorite (60–85% CaF2), the lowest of the three grades, has traditionally been used as a flux to lower the melting point of raw materials in steel production to aid the removal of impurities, and later in the production of aluminium. Ceramic grade fluorite (85–95% CaF2) is used in the manufacture of opalescent glass, enamels and cooking utensils. The highest grade, "acid grade fluorite" (97% or more CaF2), accounts for about 95% of fluorite consumption in the US where it is used to make hydrogen fluoride and hydrofluoric acid by reacting the fluorite with sulfuric acid.[23]

Internationally, acid-grade fluorite is also used in the production of AlF3 and cryolite (Na3AlF6), which are the main fluorine compounds used in aluminium smelting. Alumina is dissolved in a bath that consists primarily of molten Na3AlF6, AlF3, and fluorite (CaF2) to allow electrolytic recovery of aluminium. Fluorine losses are replaced entirely by the addition of AlF3, the majority of which will react with excess sodium from the alumina to form Na3AlF6.[23]

Niche uses[edit]

Lapidary uses[edit]

Natural fluorite mineral has ornamental and lapidary uses. Fluorite may be drilled into beads and used in jewelry, although due to its relative softness it is not widely used as a semiprecious stone. It is also used for ornamental carvings, with expert carvings taking advantage of the stone's zonation.

Optics[edit]

In the laboratory, calcium fluoride is commonly used as a window material for both infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths, since it is transparent in these regions (about 0.15 µm to 9 µm) and exhibits extremely low change in refractive index with wavelength. Furthermore the material is attacked by few reagents. At wavelengths as short as 157 nm, a common wavelength used for semiconductor stepper manufacture for integrated circuit lithography, the refractive index of calcium fluoride shows some non-linearity at high power densities, which has inhibited its use for this purpose. In the early years of the 21st century, the stepper market for calcium fluoride collapsed, and many large manufacturing facilities have been closed. Canon and other manufacturers have used synthetically grown crystals of calcium fluoride components in lenses to aid apochromatic design, and to reduce light dispersion. This use has largely been superseded by newer glasses and computer-aided design. As an infrared optical material, calcium fluoride is widely available and was sometimes known by the Eastman Kodak trademarked name "Irtran-3", although this designation is obsolete.

Fluorite has a very low dispersion, so lenses made from it exhibit less chromatic aberration than those made of ordinary glass.[24] However, naturally occurring fluorite crystals without optical defects were only large enough to produce microscope elements.

With the advent of synthetically grown fluorite (calcium fluoride crystal), it could be used instead of glass in some high-performance telescopes and camera lens elements. Its use for prisms and lenses was studied and promoted by Victor Schumann near the end of the 19th century.[25]

In telescopes, fluorite elements allow high-resolution images of astronomical objects at high magnifications. Canon Inc. produces synthetic fluorite crystals that are used in their more expensive telephoto lenses.

Exposure tools for the semiconductor industry make use of fluorite optical elements for ultraviolet light at wavelengths of about 157 nanometers. Fluorite has a uniquely high transparency at this wavelength. Fluorite objective lenses are manufactured by the larger microscope firms (Nikon, Olympus, Carl Zeiss and Leica). Their transparence to ultraviolet light enables them to be used for fluorescence microscopy.[26] The fluorite also serves to correct optical aberrations in these lenses. Nikon has previously manufactured at least one all-fluorite element camera lens (105 mm f/4.5 UV) for the production of ultraviolet images.[27] Konica produced a fluorite lens for their SLR cameras – the Hexanon 300 mm f6.3.

Source of fluorine gas in nature[edit]

In 2012, the first source of naturally occurring fluorine gas was found in fluorite mines in Bavaria, Germany. It was previously thought that fluorine gas did not occur naturally because it is so reactive and would rapidly react with other chemicals.[28] Fluorite is normally colorless but some varied forms found nearby look black and are known as 'fetid fluorite' or antozonite. The minerals, containing small amounts of uranium and its daughter products, release radiation sufficiently energetic to induce oxidation of fluoride anions within the structure to fluorine that becomes trapped inside the mineral. The color of fetid fluorite is predominantly due to the calcium atoms remaining. Solid state fluorine-19 NMR was carried out on the gas escaping the antozonite revealed a peak at 425 ppm, which is consistent with F2.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document: "Fluorspar". 

  1. ^ Anthony, John W.; Bideaux, Richard A.; Bladh, Kenneth W. and Nichols, Monte C. (ed.). "Fluorite" (PDF). Handbook of Mineralogy. III (Halides, Hydroxides, Oxides). Chantilly, VA, US: Mineralogical Society of America. ISBN 0962209724. Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Fluorite. Mindat.org
  3. ^ Fluorite. Webmineral.com
  4. ^ Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, pp. 324–325, 20th ed., ISBN 0-471-80580-7
  5. ^ "Discovery of fluorine". Fluoride History. 
  6. ^ compiled by Alexander Senning. (2007). Elsevier's dictionary of chemoetymology : the whies and whences of chemical nomenclature and terminology. Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-444-52239-9. 
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "fluorite". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "spar". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  9. ^ U. S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (2010). Minerals Yearbook, 2006, V. 2, Area Reports, Domestic. Government Printing Office. pp. 15–3. ISBN 1-4113-2543-5. 
  10. ^ Fluorspar. USGS.gov (2011)
  11. ^ Reactivation of the St. Lawrence fluorspar mine at St. Lawrence, NL. Burin Minerals Ltd. (April 9, 2009).
  12. ^ Van Alstine, R. E. (1944). "The fluorspar deposits of Saint Lawrence, Newfoundland". Economic Geology 39 (2): 109. doi:10.2113/gsecongeo.39.2.109. 
  13. ^ Strong, D. F.; Fryer, B. J.; Kerrich, R. (1984). "Genesis of the St. Lawrence fluorspar deposits as indicated by fluid inclusion, rare earth element, and isotopic data". Economic Geology 79 (5): 1142. doi:10.2113/gsecongeo.79.5.1142. 
  14. ^ Korbel, P. and Novak, M. (2002) The Complete Encyclopedia of Minerals, Book Sales, ISBN 0785815201.
  15. ^ Rickwood, P. C. (1981). "The largest crystals". American Mineralogist 66: 885–907. 
  16. ^ Hill, Graham and Holman, John (2000). Chemistry in context. Nelson Thornes. ISBN 0174482760. 
  17. ^ Ford, Trevor D. (1994). "Blue John fluorspar". Geology Today 10 (5): 186. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2451.1994.tb00422.x. 
  18. ^ a b Stokes, G. G. (1852). "On the Change of Refrangibility of Light". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 142: 463–562. doi:10.1098/rstl.1852.0022. 
  19. ^ Stokes, G. G. (1853). "On the Change of Refrangibility of Light. No. II". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 143: 385–396, at p. 387. doi:10.1098/rstl.1853.0016. JSTOR 108570. 
  20. ^ Przibram, K. (1935). "Fluorescence of Fluorite and the Bivalent Europium Ion". Nature 135 (3403): 100. Bibcode:1935Natur.135..100P. doi:10.1038/135100a0. 
  21. ^ McKeever, S. W. S. (1988). Thermoluminescence of Solids. Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-521-36811-1. 
  22. ^ Aigueperse, Jean; Paul Mollard; Didier Devilliers; Marius Chemla; Robert Faron; Renée Romano; Jean Pierre Cuer (2005). "Fluorine Compounds, Inorganic". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a11_307. ISBN 3527306730. 
  23. ^ a b Miller, M. Michael. Fluorspar, USGS 2009 Minerals Yearbook
  24. ^ Capper, Peter (2005). Bulk crystal growth of electronic, optical & optoelectronic materials. John Wiley and Sons. p. 339. ISBN 0-470-85142-2. 
  25. ^ Lyman, T. (1914). "Victor Schumann". Astrophysical Journal 38: 1–4. Bibcode:1914ApJ....39....1L. doi:10.1086/142050 
  26. ^ Rost, F. W. D. and Oldfield, Ronald Jowett (2000). Photography with a microscope. Cambridge University Press. p. 157. ISBN 0-521-77096-3. 
  27. ^ Ray, Sidney F. (1999). Scientific photography and applied imaging. Focal Press. pp. 387–388. ISBN 0-240-51323-1. 
  28. ^ First direct evidence that elemental fluorine occurs in nature. Labspaces.net (2012-07-06). Retrieved on 2013-08-05.
  29. ^ Withers, Neil (1 July 2012) Fluorine finally found in nature | Chemistry World. Rsc.org.

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