Apatite

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Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxyapatite, fluorapatite, chlorapatite and bromapatite, named for high concentrations of OH, F, Cl or Br ions, respectively, in the crystal. The formula of the admixture of the four most common endmembers is written as Ca10(PO4)6(OH, F, Cl, Br)2, and the crystal unit cell formulae of the individual minerals are written as Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, Ca10(PO4)6(F)2, Ca10(PO4)6(Cl)2 and Ca10(PO4)6(Br)2.

Apatite is one of a few minerals that are produced and used by biological micro-environmental systems. Apatite is the defining mineral for 5 on Mohs Scale hardness. Hydroxyapatite, also known as hydroxylapatite, is the major component of tooth enamel and bone mineral. A relatively rare form of apatite in which most of the OH groups are absent and containing many carbonate and acid phosphate substitutions is a large component of bone material.

Fluorapatite (or fluoroapatite) is more resistant to acid attack than is hydroxyapatite. For this reason, toothpaste typically contains a source of fluoride anions (e.g. sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate). Similarly, fluoridated water allows exchange in the teeth of fluoride ions for hydroxyl groups in apatite. Too much fluoride results in dental fluorosis and/or skeletal fluorosis.

Fission tracks in apatite are commonly used to determine the thermal history of orogenic (mountain) belts and of sediments in sedimentary basins. (U-Th)/He dating of apatite is also well-established for use in determining thermal histories and other, less typical applications such as paleo-wildfire dating.

Phosphorite is a phosphate-rich sedimentary rock, that contains between 18% and 40% P2O5. The apatite in phosphorite is present as cryptocrystalline masses referred to as collophane.

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