, 25 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
Alright, this is an easy choice, but definitely NOT going to be an easy match.

Why vote for #smectite ? It's "just dirt" or "boring".

Because you, dear #MinCup2019 voter, have the skills to see beyond the competition's "glow".

Buckle up for a long thread: (1/25)
Firstly, let's talk about one of #smectite 's uses. It is a common component in pet litter. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but smectite doesn't mind - because it is helpful. (2/25)
The incorporation of #smectite into pet litter makes it easier to clean out litter boxes while simultaneously reducing the amount of wasted litter - saving YOU time, effort, and money! (3/25)
This ease in cleaning, and reduction of wasted litter, dramatically lowered the cost of keeping a cat.

Now Twitter, I understand you are a fan of cats and their antics. Why are you voting against a mineral that makes life easier for everyone involved?

Vote #smectite (4/25)
On this tangent for this use.

#Smectite demand, for litter, has been steadily on the rise as more and more cats are being adopted and brought inside.

This allows the cats to stay indoors and lowers the impact on local fauna. Smectite saves birds and squirrels from cats! (5/25)
But why, you may find yourself asking, does #smectite do such a good job at storage? For that, let's go to its crystalline structure:

All clay minerals are sheet silicates ("phyllosilicates"). You will also observe tetrahedral layers and octahedral layers (6/25)
Tetrahedral layers are like four-sided dice (d4) (i.e. tetrahedrons, but I like TTRPGs - like DnD - so let's go with d4s). That's right, #smectite is capable of rolling a truly staggering amount of "magic missiles" - DnD joke (7/25)
These tetrahedrons are lined up in sheets, where each of the "basal" corners of our d4 touch the corner of surrounding d4s - this forms a ring like structure: (8/25)
This forms a nice "flat" surface covering 3 of the 4 "points" on our silicon tetrahedrons (d4s). That last point, on top - which makes d4's worse to step on than legos, is tricky to bond to - at least if clays maintained tetrahedral coordination. (9/25)
Immediately above this d4 layer, clay crystals adjust to an octahedral coordination (think eight sided dice - d8s in DnD). (10/25)
each point in the "d8" layer connects to 3 points in the "d4" layer with 3 more sites to bond with "d4s" above it. This makes a clay mineral sandwich where #smectite has a basal tetrahedral layer, an internal octahedral layer, and an overlying tetrahedral layer. (11/25)
This pattern is commonly referred to as T-O-T

[alt gif text: Napoleon Dynamite wants to know "You gonna eat your tots?"]. (12/25)
Wow, that took a bit, if you are still with me (thank you). But now we can understand why #smectite can store contaminants so well.

Each set of T-O-T is stacked with other repeating layers of T-O-T. Where the two T layers meet, they are bound by Van der Waals bonds. (13/25)
Van der Waals are notoriously weak bonds and can easily be broken (You do this whenever you peel a sheet of mica).

But, a lot of other ions & ionic molecules are capable of inserting themselves into this inter-clay layer. This includes water. (14/25)
That's right, #smectite's crystal structure is fully capable of MOVING.

Now, a lot of clays can take in material into their inter-clay layer, but #smectite is the best. It is capable of taking in 18 layers (!!!) of water molecules between each T-O-T sheet. (15/25)
This may not sound like much, but remember we are talking about the molecular level here. Scaled up this means that #smectite is capable of swelling upwards of 30% just from taking in things like water. And that clay inter-layer is thirsty. (16/25)
This absorption of water is helps make #smectite "clump" and stick to wet surfaces. But its uses are not limited to helping us clean up after our feline friends. (17/25)
#Smectite is also used to help us clean up after ourselves (and also to prevent contamination). Smectite is a commonly used clay to help clean up environmental contaminants during remediation - same idea as its use in pet litter, but scaled up. (18/25)
#Smectite 's effectively unquenchable thirst also makes it a perfect barrier to fluid flow and is commonly used to help line retaining ponds. Any water that reaches it will be stored in the expansive inter-clay layers. (19/25)
#Smectite is also used in soil mixtures to help keep plants alive during dry spells. Its less resiliant cousin #vermiculite is also used for these purposes - because vermiculite will release the water easier. (20/25)
#Smectite can also be used to reconstruct the burial history of sedimentary rocks. At depth, and increased temps, smectite starts to change into another cousin #illite. By measuring how much smectite has been transformed into illite... (21/25)
... we can constrain, and interpret, our rock's burial history (a facet of a field of study called "Diagenesis"). This particular relationship also has a strong bearing on how well cemented a rock becomes. (22/25).
It is also good to be aware of #smectite during construction of... anything really. That volume change WILL happen and these #clayminerals have been well known to move entire buildings (and even stadiums) if their presence is ignored. (23/25)
So at the end of this, if you HONESTLY feel a mineral like fluorite deserves to win because it glows when hit with certain wavelengths (all minerals do that to some extent though, fluorite just does it in the visible spectrum) - you won't be alone, and I can respect that. (24/25)
BUT, if you walk away from this thread thinking that #clayminerals and #smectite in particular is boring, then Mrs. Landingham would like a word with you.

[alt gif text: Mrs. Landingham from The West Wing saying "Then God, Jed, I don't even wanna know you"] (25/25)
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