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What is Mica

7/13/2012 12:48:24 PM | by Anonymous

Mica

A name given to a group of minerals that have similar chemical and physical properties, mica are sheet silicate minerals as they all contain the substance silica(SiO4) and can be used for a variety of applications. They are referred to as sheet silicates as their molecules form distinct layers when they combine together. The layers can also be split into thin flexible transparent layers. Micas or other minerals that are able to split in this fashion are said to have a micaceous cleavage. There are 37 different known mica minerals in the world today. Some common applications of these minerals are in the construction of windowpanes or glass that is highly resistant to a variety of temperatures. They can even be used in electrical gadgets and equipment. Some properties of mica minerals are that their crystals are six-sided, they are lightweight and soft, they are flexible, can resist heat very well and do not conduct electricity.

 

At one point of time, these minerals were considered rare and were very much valued items. However due to discovery of large amounts of this substance in Africa and South America in the 19th century, they become relatively inexpensive today. The discovery also led to mining operations in many parts of the world with India today having large amounts of the mineral. Other countries such as China, South Korea, Canada and United States are amongst the few that rank amongst top producers of the substance.

 

It is believed that the mineral gets its name from the Latin word micare which is based on the glittering appearance of the substance. When under direct light, the mineral is able to retain a sheen and glimmer, hence its name. Not only is mica classified as a silicate due to its composition, but the mineral can also be classified amongst the minerals that portray monoclinic properties that are similar to crystals.

 

Scrap and flake mica are produced in many parts of the world, however, sheet mica is not as abundant as scrap and flake. It is sometimes recovered while mining for scrap and flake mica. Pegmatite deposits are important sources of sheet mica; however mining for sheet mica is very costly with high labor costs.

 

Uses

Mica is used in a number of industries. In the manufacturing of paints, mica is added to act as a pigment extender and facilitate suspension due to its lightweight property. It is also able to provide the paint with resistance against harsh weather, shearing and also brighten the tone of coloured pigments. It can even be used as an additive to smoothen the process of well drilling. Acting as a substitute for glass panes, the mineral can be pressed into sheets to replace them. The plastic industry uses mica to help reinforce the materials made. It aids the molding of rubber parts in the rubber industry which includes molding of tires. Aside from the ground mica being used in all these various industries, sheet mica is principally used in electronic manufacturing in the electrical industry. Some uses in the electrical industry of sheet mica can be in the form of block mica to serve as insulators in electrical devices, dielectrics in capacitors and provide insulation in electric motors. Sheet mica also serves as a good decorative element being used to decorate panels and lamps in windows. Toothpaste formulas also may use powdered mica as an ingredient in the making of toothpastes. As it has a high tolerance for changing temperature, mica can be added to tinted elements in doors and windows.

 

Being applied in a variety of applications, mica proves to be a very useful mineral. There are substances that can replace mica in events where it would not be ideal to be used. Lightweight minerals such as vermiculite that have similar properties to mica minerals can be used as a replacement. Since sheet mica is expensive to extract, paper made from ground mica can be used to replace the sheets for various applications such as insulation.

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