Dolomite

Dolomite

Overview
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

 magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

 CaMg(CO3)2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock
Carbonate rock
Carbonate rocks are a class of sedimentary rocks composed primarily of carbonate minerals. The two major types are limestone, which is composed of calcite or aragonite and dolostone, which is composed of the mineral dolomite .Calcite can be either dissolved by groundwater or precipitated by...

 dolostone
Dolostone
Dolostone or dolomite rock is a sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite. In old U.S.G.S. publications it was referred to as magnesian limestone. Most dolostone formed as a magnesium replacement of limestone or lime mud prior to lithification. It is...

.

Dolostone
Dolostone
Dolostone or dolomite rock is a sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite. In old U.S.G.S. publications it was referred to as magnesian limestone. Most dolostone formed as a magnesium replacement of limestone or lime mud prior to lithification. It is...

 (dolomite rock) is composed predominantly of the mineral dolomite with a stoichiometric ratio of 50% or greater content of magnesium replacing calcium, often as a result of diagenesis. Limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 that is partially replaced by dolomite is referred to as dolomitic limestone, or in old U.S.
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Encyclopedia
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

 magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

 CaMg(CO3)2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock
Carbonate rock
Carbonate rocks are a class of sedimentary rocks composed primarily of carbonate minerals. The two major types are limestone, which is composed of calcite or aragonite and dolostone, which is composed of the mineral dolomite .Calcite can be either dissolved by groundwater or precipitated by...

 dolostone
Dolostone
Dolostone or dolomite rock is a sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite. In old U.S.G.S. publications it was referred to as magnesian limestone. Most dolostone formed as a magnesium replacement of limestone or lime mud prior to lithification. It is...

.

Dolostone
Dolostone
Dolostone or dolomite rock is a sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite. In old U.S.G.S. publications it was referred to as magnesian limestone. Most dolostone formed as a magnesium replacement of limestone or lime mud prior to lithification. It is...

 (dolomite rock) is composed predominantly of the mineral dolomite with a stoichiometric ratio of 50% or greater content of magnesium replacing calcium, often as a result of diagenesis. Limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 that is partially replaced by dolomite is referred to as dolomitic limestone, or in old U.S. geologic literature as magnesian limestone. Dolomite was first described in 1791 as a rock by the French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

 and geologist
Geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

, Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu
Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu
Dieudonné Sylvain Guy Tancrède de Dolomieu usually known as Déodat de Dolomieu was a French geologist; the rock dolomite and the largest summital crater on the Piton de la Fournaise volcano were named after him.Déodat de Dolomieu was born in Dauphiné, France, one of 11 children of the Marquis de...

 (1750–1801) from exposures in what are now known as the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

.

Properties


The mineral dolomite crystallizes in the trigonal-rhombohedral system. It forms white, gray to pink, commonly curved (saddle shape) crystals, although it is usually massive. Unlike calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

, dolomite is a double carbonate, having a different structural arrangement, and it does not rapidly dissolve or effervesce (fizz) in dilute hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid....

 unless it is scratched or in powdered form. Crystal twinning
Crystal twinning
Crystal twinning occurs when two separate crystals share some of the same crystal lattice points in a symmetrical manner. The result is an intergrowth of two separate crystals in a variety of specific configurations. A twin boundary or composition surface separates the two crystals....

 is common. A solid solution series exists between dolomite and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 rich ankerite
Ankerite
Ankerite is a calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese carbonate mineral of the group of rhombohedral carbonates with formula: Ca2. In composition it is closely related to dolomite, but differs from this in having magnesium replaced by varying amounts of iron and manganese.The crystallographic and...

. Small amounts of iron in the structure give the crystals a yellow to brown tint. Manganese
Manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

 substitutes in the structure also up to about three percent MnO. A high manganese content gives the crystals a rosy pink color noted in the image above. A series with the manganese rich kutnohorite
Kutnohorite
Kutnohorite is a rare calcium manganese carbonate mineral with magnesium and iron, that is a member of the dolomite group. It forms a series with dolomite, and with ankerite...

 may exist. Lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 and zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 also substitute in the structure for magnesium.

Formation


Vast deposits are present in the geological record, but the mineral is relatively rare in modern environments. Laboratory synthesis of stoichiometric dolomite has been carried out only at temperatures of greater than 100 °C (conditions typical of burial in sedimentary basins), even though much dolomite in the rock record appears to have formed in low-temperature conditions. The high temperature is likely to speed up the movement of calcium and magnesium ions so that they can find their places in the ordered structure within a reasonable amount of time. This suggests that the lack of dolomite that is being formed today is likely due to kinetic factors, i.e. due to the lack of kinetic energy or temperature.

Modern dolomite does occur as a precipitating mineral in specialized environments on the surface of the earth today. In the 1950s and 60s, dolomite was found to be forming in highly saline lakes in the Coorong region of South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

. Dolomite crystals also occur in deep-sea sediments, where organic matter content is high. This dolomite is termed "organogenic" dolomite.

Recent research has found modern dolomite formation under anaerobic
Hypoxia (environmental)
Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is a phenomenon that occurs in aquatic environments as dissolved oxygen becomes reduced in concentration to a point where it becomes detrimental to aquatic organisms living in the system...

 conditions in supersaturated
Supersaturation
The term supersaturation refers to a solution that contains more of the dissolved material than could be dissolved by the solvent under normal circumstances...

 saline lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

s along the Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

 coast of Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, namely, Lagoa Vermelha and Brejo do Espinho. One interesting reported case was the formation of dolomite in the kidneys of a Dalmatian
Dalmatian (dog)
The Dalmatian is a breed of dog whose roots are often said to trace back to Dalmatia, a region of Croatia where the first illustrations of the dog have been found. The Dalmatian is noted for its unique black- or brown-spotted coat and was mainly used as a carriage dog in its early days...

 dog. This was believed to be due to chemical processes triggered by bacteria. Dolomite has been speculated to develop under these conditions with the help of sulfate-reducing bacteria
Sulfate-reducing bacteria
Sulfate-reducing bacteria are those bacteria and archaea that can obtain energy by oxidizing organic compounds or molecular hydrogen while reducing sulfate to hydrogen sulfide...

 (e.g. Desulfovibrio brasiliensis).
The actual role of bacteria in the low-temperature formation of dolomite remains to be demonstrated. The specific mechanism of dolomitization
Dolomitization
Dolomitization is a process by which dolomite is formed when magnesium ions replace calcium ions in calcite. It is common for this alteration into dolomite to take place due to evaporation of water in the sabkha area. Dolomitization involves substantial amount of recrystallization...

, involving sulfate-reducing bacteria, has not yet been demonstrated.

Dolomite appears to form in many different types of environment and can have varying structural, textural and chemical characteristics. Some researchers have stated "there are dolomites and dolomites", meaning that there may not be one single mechanism by which dolomite can form. Much modern dolomite differs significantly from the bulk of the dolomite found in the rock record, leading researchers to speculate that environments where dolomite formed in the geologic past differ significantly from those where it forms today.


Reproducible laboratory syntheses of dolomite (and magnesite
Magnesite
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate, MgCO3. Iron substitutes for magnesium with a complete solution series with siderite, FeCO3. Calcium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel may also occur in small amounts...

) leads first to the initial precipitation of a metastable "precursor" (such as magnesium calcite), to be changed gradually into more and more of the stable phase (such as dolomite or magnesite) during periodical intervals of dissolution and reprecipitation. The general principle governing the course of this irreversible geochemical
Geochemistry
The field of geochemistry involves study of the chemical composition of the Earth and other planets, chemical processes and reactions that govern the composition of rocks, water, and soils, and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space, and...

 reaction has been coined Ostwald's step rule.

For a very long time scientists had difficulties synthesizing dolomite. However, in a 1999 study, through a process of dissolution alternating with intervals of precipitation, measurable levels of dolomite were synthesized at low temperatures and pressures.

Coral atolls


Dolomitization of calcite also occurs at certain depths of coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

s where water is undersaturated in calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

  but saturated in dolomite. Convection created by tides and sea currents enhance this change. Hydrothermal currents created by volcanoes under the atoll may also play an important role.

Uses



Dolomite is used as an ornamental stone, a concrete aggregate, a source of magnesium oxide
Magnesium oxide
Magnesium oxide , or magnesia, is a white hygroscopic solid mineral that occurs naturally as periclase and is a source of magnesium . It has an empirical formula of and consists of a lattice of Mg2+ ions and O2– ions held together by ionic bonds...

 and in the Pidgeon process
Pidgeon process
The Pidgeon process is one of the methods of magnesium metal production, via a silicothermic reduction. Practical production requires roughly 35-40 MWh/ton of metal produced, which is on par with the molten salt electrolytic methods of production, though above the 7 MWh/ton theoretical...

 for the production of magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

. It is an important petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 reservoir
Oil reservoir
A petroleum reservoir, or oil and gas reservoir, is a subsurface pool of hydrocarbons contained in porous or fractured rock formations. The naturally occurring hydrocarbons, such as crude oil or natural gas, are trapped by overlying rock formations with lower permeability...

 rock, and serves as the host rock for large strata-bound Mississippi Valley-Type (MVT) ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 deposits of base metal
Base metal
In chemistry, the term base metal is used informally to refer to a metal that oxidizes or corrodes relatively easily, and reacts variably with diluted hydrochloric acid to form hydrogen. Examples include iron, nickel, lead and zinc...

s such as lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, and copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

. Where calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

 limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 is uncommon or too costly, dolomite is sometimes used in its place as a flux
Flux (metallurgy)
In metallurgy, a flux , is a chemical cleaning agent, flowing agent, or purifying agent. Fluxes may have more than one function at a time...

 for the smelting
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 of iron and steel. Large quantities of processed dolomite are used in the production of float glass
Float glass
Float glass is a sheet of glass made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal, typically tin, although lead and various low melting point alloys were used in the past. This method gives the sheet uniform thickness and very flat surfaces. Modern windows are made from float glass...

.

In horticulture
Horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

, dolomite and dolomitic limestone are added to soils and soilless potting mixes to lower their acidity and as a magnesium source. Home and container gardening are common examples of this use.

Dolomite is also used as the substrate in marine (saltwater) aquariums to help buffer changes in pH of the water.

Because dolomite contains relatively minor quantities of radioactive materials, physicists in particle physics build their particle detectors under layers of dolomite to enable the detectors to detect the highest possible number of exotic particles. Another reason to build their particle detectors under layers of dolomite is for its insulation against cosmic rays.