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The chemical formula of mineral Nitratine is indicated by NaNO3 or Sodium Nitrate. Nitratine is also called Soda Niter. Nitratine is actually a Carbonate mineral. It is a known source of nitrate for fertilizer and it is most commonly used a mineral specimen for it exhibit interesting images when viewed under polarized microscopes. Nitratine or soda niter is also one of the few nitrate minerals found available on mineral markets. Nitrate is actually not commonly found because of its general ease to dissolve in water. A solid nitrate will in fact liquefy by removing water from moisture in the air, a process called deliquescence. Nitratine is a deliquescent mineral and it is very soluble in water. Therefore, extra care should be taken to preserve valuable specimens in air tight containers with dessicant. Nitrates are similar to Carbonates that is why they are classified under Carbonates Class of minerals.

 

            Nitratine is most similar to the trigonal carbonates or those carbonates that belong to the Calcite Group, especially magnesite, rhodochrosite, siderite, smithsonite, sphaerocobaltite and calcite and some rarer members. It has been found that the structure of the members of the Calcite Group of minerals and Nitratine are analogous. They share many similar properties such as symmetry and crystal habits. The structures are so similar that nitratine in a laboratory can grow onto a crystal of calcite and essentially finish the crystal with nitratine instead calcite. Nitratine is also an important source of nitrates for fertilizer and other chemical uses including fireworks. Nowadays, fixed nitrogen from the air has all but replaced nitratine as the main source of nitrogen. An interesting side note is that discarded specimens of nitratine were said to have been thrown into a garden and this is how the importance of nitrates in good plant growth was first discovered.

 

            Nitratine or soda niter is most commonly found white or gray, sometimes with tints of red brown or yellow, all of which are more fascinating when viewed under polarized microscope used in the field of optical mineralogy. Nitratine is also usually found showing vitreous luster when viewed in reflected light of petrographic polarizing microscopes. Most crystals of mineral Nitratine are found translucent to transparent in appearance. It is also known to crystallize in the trigonal system of crystal formation. The crystal habit of mineral Nitratine as described in the field of optical mineralogy includes masses and soil deposits in arid and desert regions. Nitratine crystals are usually rarely found. However, when found, they are actually in form of rhombohedrons similar to calcite.

 

Nitratine is also most commonly found showing perfect cleavage in three directions forming rhombohedrons that can be seen more clearly visible when sample is evaluated with the aid of polarizing microscope used in optical mineralogy. Nitratine is also most commonly found exhibiting conchoidal fracture that can be seen more clearly exhibited when sample specimens are evaluated under polarized microscope. The hardness measure of mineral Nitratine when it is evaluated using the Mohs scale method is usually found ranging from 1.5 to 2. The specific gravity measure of mineral Nitratine is approximately 2.2 grams per cubic centimeters to 2.3 grams per cubic centimeters, which is below average. Nitratine samples are also most commonly found leaving a white streak when rubbed on a white porcelain streak plate. Nitratine is a deliquescent mineral with slightly sectile crystals when found. It is also very soluble in water. It also shows yellow flame with examined using the flame test. A flame test is where a sample is burned in a flame and gives off a certain color. Nitratine is also most commonly associated with other interesting minerals including halite, gypsum, and other arid region minerals. The best field indicators of mineral Nitratine includes crystal habit, solubility, flame test, hardness, deliquescent, occurrence and cleavage. Most nitrates can be found in arid, desert regions such as around the Persian Gulf or found as efflorescence on dry cave or mine walls. Nitratine notably occurs at several localities including Tarapaca and other northern Chile sites, Bolivia, Peru and Humboldt Co., Nevada, San Bernardino Co., California and New Mexico, USA.



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Monday, June 29th, 2009 at 2:23 pm
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The Carbonates and Borates Mineral Class
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