Tem and X-Ray Diffraction Evidence for Cristobalite and Tridymite Stacking Sequences in Opal

Jessica M. Elzea1 and Stephen B. Rice2
1 Thiele Kaolin Company, P.O. Box 1056, Sandersville, GA 31082
2 McCrone Associates, 850 Pasquinelli Drive, Westmont, IL 60559

Abstract: In an attempt to resolve the structure of opal-CT and opal-C more precisely, 24 opal samples from bentonites, Fuller's Earths, zeolite tufts, biogenic silicas and silicified kaolins have been analyzed by high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Results of this examination demonstrate that opal-C and opal-CT are part of a continuous series of intergrowths between end-member cristobalite and tridymite stacking sequences.

These findings are consistent with Flörke's (1955) interpretation of the most intense opal peak at ∼4 Å as a combination of the (101) cristobalite and (4¯04) tridymite peaks. The position and width of this peak are controlled by the relative volume of the two stacking types and the mean crystallite size. Direct evidence obtained by HRTEM provides data showing various stacking sequences in opals. Broadening due to crystallite size alone was determined by directly measuring crystallite size by TEM and comparing the measured size to the apparent size calculated using the Scherrer equation. XRD peak broadening is also described in terms of various contributions from structural disorder. The mean opal crystallite size ranges from 120 to 320 Å. For samples at either end of the size range, the crystallite size plays a larger role, relative to stacking disorder, in controlling peak broadening.

Key Words: Opal • Transmission Electron Microscopy • X-Ray Diffraction

Clays and Clay Minerals; August 1996 v. 44; no. 4; p. 492-500; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1996.0440407
© 1996, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)