Transmission Electron Microscopic Study of Coexisting Pyrophyllite and Muscovite: Direct Evidence for the Metastability of Illite1

Wei-Teh Jiang, Eric J. Essene and Donald R. Peacor
Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
1 Contribution 467 from the Mineralogical Laboratory, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109.

Abstract: Transmission electron microscopy has been used to characterize coexisting pyrophyllite and muscovite in low-grade metamorphosed pelites from Witwatersrand and northeastern Pennsylvania. The Witwatersrand sample consisted largely of porphyroblasts of interlayered muscovite and pyrophyllite in a fine-grained matrix of the same phases. In both textures, muscovite and pyrophyllite occurred as interlayered packets (with apparently coherent interfaces) from about 300 Å to a few micrometers in thickness, with no mixed layering. Their compositions were determined with a scanning transmission electron microscope to be





The pyrophyllite and muscovite in the Pennsylvania shale likewise occurred only as coexisting coherent to sub-parallel packets as thin as 200 Å, with compositions of




The textures of both samples were consistent with an equilibrium relationship between pyrophyllite and muscovite. The Pennsylvania sample also contained NH4-rich illite, kaolinite, and an illite-like phase having intermediate Na/K, which collectively imply non-equilibrated low-grade conditions.

The compositions of these coexisting pyrophyllite and muscovite define a solvus with steep limbs and extremely limited solid solution. Illite is a white mica, intermediate in composition between pyrophyllite and muscovite, formed at much lower temperatures than muscovite. These relations show that illite is metastable relative to pyrophyllite + muscovite in all of its diagenetic and low-grade metamorphic occurrences. This further implies that illite precursor phases, such as smectite, are also metastable. The prograde reactions involving smectite, illite, and muscovite are therefore inferred to represent Ostwald-step-rule-like advances through a series of metastable phases toward the equilibrium states attained in the greenschist facies. “Illite crystallinity” can therefore be a measure of reaction progress, for which temperature is only one of several determining factors.

Key Words: Analytical electron microscopy • Illite • Muscovite • Pyrophyllite • Solid solution • Thermodynamic stability • Transmission electron microscopy

Clays and Clay Minerals; June 1990 v. 38; no. 3; p. 225-240; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1990.0380301
© 1990, The Clay Minerals Society
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