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What is a Mineral?

March 26, 2013

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What Is?” video, we’re going to answer the question, “What is a Mineral?”

Mineralogists define a mineral as a substance that:

● Is natural, which means that humans don’t manufacture it;

● Is a solid, that is, it keeps its form at room temperature and;

● Has a distinct chemical make-up, which means it has a specific chemical formula that’s consistent throughout the mineral. This is true whether the mineral is made of a single element, or of a combination of elements. A specific chemical make-up distinguishes minerals from rocks, which are mixtures of many different materials.

In addition to these qualities, most mineralogists agree that minerals are “abiogenic,” that is, not produce in living organisms, and that they have atoms that are arranged in a specific order. This property results in many minerals taking the form of crystals.

Mineralogists have identified almost 5,000 unique kinds of minerals. They’re classified by physical properties such as color, hardness, luster, (how they reflect light), and radioactivity.

Despite earth’s wide variety of minerals, about 90% of our planet’s crust is made of minerals composed largely of silicon and oxygen, called “silicate minerals.” The most common silicate minerals are called feldspar and quartz.

Minerals don’t just make up the earth – they also make about 4% of your body mass. Because minerals can’t be made by the body, it’s important that we get them in our diet. Some of the more important ones include:

● Calcium and phosphorous, important for bones and teeth,

● Iron, essential in red blood cells, and

● Potassium and sodium, required for healthy nerve cells.

● We also require trace minerals like copper, zinc, and iodine.

Humans use minerals in everything from cereals, to batteries, to shampoos to pet foods. In fact, at least 30 minerals are present in the computer you’re using to view this video.



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