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Kaolinite is a clay mineral, part of the group of industrial minerals, with the chemical composition Al2Si2O5(OH)4. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedral sheet linked through oxygen atoms to one octahedral sheet of alumina octahedra.[4] Rocks that are rich in kaolinite are known as china clay, white clay, or kaolin.

The name is derived from Chinese: 高陵/高嶺; pinyin: Gaoling or Kao-ling ("High Hill") in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China.[5] The name entered English in 1727 from the French version of the word: "kaolin", following Francois Xavier d'Entrecolles's reports from Jingdezhen.[6]

Kaolinite has a low shrink-swell capacity and a low cation exchange capacity (1-15 meq/100g.) It is a soft, earthy, usually white mineral (dioctahedral phyllosilicate clay), produced by the chemical weathering of aluminium silicate minerals like feldspar. In many parts of the world, it is colored pink-orange-red by iron oxide, giving it a distinct rust hue. Lighter concentrations yield white, yellow or light orange colours. Alternating layers are sometimes found, as at Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia, USA.


Structural transformations

Kaolin-type clays undergo a series of phase transformations upon thermal treatment in air at atmospheric pressure. Endothermic dehydroxylation (or alternatively, dehydration) begins at 550-600 °C to produce disordered metakaolin, Al2Si2O7, but continuous hydroxyl loss (-OH) is observed up to 900 °C and has been attributed to gradual oxolation of the metakaolin.[7] Because of historic disagreement concerning the nature of the metakaolin phase, extensive research has led to general consensus that metakaolin is not a simple mixture of amorphous silica (SiO2) and alumina (Al2O3), but rather a complex amorphous structure that retains some longer-range order (but not strictly crystalline) due to stacking of its hexagonal layers.[7]

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