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IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Origin of clay minerals and their perspectives
Dr Elshan Abdullayev (French-Azerbaijani University)
Clays have been used since prehistoric times, for example for the fabrication of ceramics. Today, clays find numerous technological and industrial applications.
Clay minerals are fine-grained material, which become pliable when they interact with water. The minerals comprise silica, alumina, water and also iron, alkalis and alkaline earth elements. Clay minerals belong to phllosilcates and are divided into several groups based on their properties: the kaolin and serpentine groups, the talc and pyrophyllite groups, the expandable smectite and vermiculite groups, the illite group, the chlorite group, and the sepiolite-palygorskite. The earth mineral evolution is divided into 3 eras and 10 stages. Clay mineral formation began at stage 3, at the earliest part of the Hadean Eon due to alternation of ultramafic and basaltic rocks.
There are several ways of formation of clay minerals: (i) Aqueous alternation, (ii) Authigenesis, (iii) Diagenesis, (iv) Terrestrial weathering, and (v) Biomediated clay mineralization. These processes drive chemical composition and properties of the clay minerals.
Depending upon their chemical and physical properties, clay minerals can be applied to different areas. Investigation of clay mineral-water interaction is important to all aspects of geology, water science, soil science, geotechnical engineering, geomorphology, seismology, astrobiology and atmospheric science. Due to the high surface charges originating from isomorphous substitution in the crystal lattice, and from the presence of pH dependent surface edges or broken bond sites, clay minerals can absorb positively charged ions and organic components on their surface. In addition, some chemical elements in clay minerals can be potential sources of nutrients for bacteria. Clay mineral-bacteria interaction can play a major role in formation of new minerals. Such properties of clay minerals can also be used in some internal and external medical treatment.
Clay minerals are also good indicators for the study of past climatic conditions and sea level changes.
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