Geology 310


Catalog Entry

GEOL 310. Mineralogy
Two hours lecture; six hours laboratory (4).
Prerequisite: GEOL 105; Co-requisite: CHEM 101 or permission of instructor.

Introduces students to concepts and techniques involved in the study of minerals, both on a macroscopic and microscopic scales. Study of mineral formation, major mineral groups, their crystallography, compositions, structures, classification, identification and environmental aspects. Introduction to principles involved in the investigation of optical properties of minerals in thin section under petrographic microscope. Techniques include microphotography and automated, digital image analysis of minerals. Introduction and demonstration of the X-Ray Diffractometer, Scanning Electron Microscope and Electron Microprobe as instruments for mineralogical analysis.


Detailed Description of Content of Course
The first part of the course covers the basic definition of minerals, their processes of formation and occurrence on different scales in terms of size. A review of the historical aspects of the science of mineralogy is followed by the concepts (and laboratory exercises) pertaining to understanding crystallography and systems of crystallographic classification. Next, an introduction is provided regarding the variety of physical properties utilized in characterization and identification of minerals in hand specimens (and is also supplemented by a series of lab exercises focusing on mineral samples representative of the different mineral groups). Crystal chemistry is investigated via a treatment of the topics including mineral stability diagrams and phase relationships. Next, the major mineral groups are studied with regard to their physical and chemical properties and modes of occurrence (including the Nesosilicates, Sorosilicates, Cyclosilicates, Ionosilicates, Phyllosilicates, Tectosilicates, and the Native Elements, Sulfides/Sulfosalts, Oxides/Hydroxides/Halides, Carbonates and the Gem Minerals. A series of lab exercises allow for the students to gain familiarity with representative mineral samples from each of the aforementioned mineral groups.

The second part of the course places emphasis on the study of minerals on a microscopic scale, predominantly via the use of a petrologic microscope. Lab exercises make the students familiar with the correct use of a petrologic microscope and the underlying principles of optics of light which are involved. Introduction to the theory of light and reflection, refraction and polarization is covered next. Lab exercises using polaroid films and calcite crystals are used to reinforce the concepts of refraction and polarization. Principles of grain mounts and refractive indices are covered both via lecture and lab exercises. Introduction to the optical classification and concepts of uniaxial and biaxial (specifically isotropic and anisotropic) optic types is provided. Lab exercises involve identification of uniaxial and biaxial optic sign (specifically optically positive or negative character) and understanding of special optic characters including pleochroism, twinkling and birefringence. Introduction to the identification of minerals in thin section (lab exercises include study of minerals from the major mineral groups including opaques).

Introduction and demonstration of instruments including X-Ray Diffractometer, Scanning Electron Microscope and the Electron Microprobe, as means of analyzing minerals in the powder form and on a microscopic to a submicroscopic scale. Use of the microphotography station and of the Mineralogical Image Analysis Station to introduce students to elements of digital image analysis and application to the solution of environmental geology problems.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
The course will be taught via a combination of lectures and laboratory exercises as outlined above. The theoretical aspects of the different learning goals will be studied in the lecture format and via demonstration of examples by the instructor. Hands-on experience and further inquiry into mineral types and properties will be facilitated by means of detailed laboratory exercises wherein students will have the opportunity to work in pairs on petrologic microscopes.


Goals and Objectives of the Course
- Students will demonstrate understanding of the concepts involved in the study of minerals in both the macroscopic and microscopic scales.

- Students will demonstrate knowledge of the mineral classification system.

- Students will demonstrate the understanding and use of the variety of physical properties utilized in the characterization and identification of minerals, both in hand sample and in thin sections.

- Students will be able to correctly use the petrologic microscope.

- Students will demonstrate the fundamental techniques involved in microphotography of mineral samples in thin section and of digital image analysis of minerals.

- Students will demonstrate understanding of the theory and practical aspects of instruments involved in mineral studies including the X-Ray Diffractometer, Scanning Electron Microscope and the Electron Microprobe.


Assessment Measures
Students will be assessed via a series of (a total of three) lecture and laboratory tests during the semester. In addition, a percentage of the final grade will be derived from the students’ graded laboratory exercises.


Other Course Information
- GEOL 310 is a required course for a major in geology.

- The demonstrations of the Scanning Electron Microscope and of the Electron Microprobe instruments will be conducted at the Department of geology at Virginia Tech.


Approval and Subsequent Reviews

March, 2010