Packing system a tics of the silica polymorphs: The role played by O-O nonbonded interactions in the compression of quartz

Richard M. Thompson, Robert T. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The anion skeleton of quartz is a distorted body-centered cubic (BCC) arrangement. A hypothetical ideal. BCC crystal structure for quartz has been derived and used to locate and describe the unoccupied tetrahedral. sites, quantify the distortion of the quartz anion arrangement from ideal BCC, and characterize the role of tetrahedral distortion, and O-O interactions in the compression of quartz. Quartz has eight crystallographically nonequivalent tetrahedra, one occupied by silicon and seven unoccupied. These tetrahedra completely nil space, something that cannot be done using only regular tetrahedra. In ideal. BCC quartz, the nonequivalent tetrahedra are identical in size and shape with a unique geometry and are referred to as Sommerville tetrahedra. In reality, the unoccupied tetrahedra of quartz are very distorted from both regular and Sommerville tetrahedra. Changes in the unoccupied tetrahedra are responsible for most of the compression in quartz with pressure, as the volume of the Si tetrahedron decreases by <1% over 10.2 GPa, but the volume of the bulk structure decreases by almost 16%. The ideal BCC quartz has been used to quantify the distortion from ideal BCC of the O arrangement in quartz at several pressures up to 10.2 GPa. Distortion decreases by over 60% across this domain. Other parameters have been derived to quantify the distortion of the unoccupied and occupied tetrahedra in. quartz from Sommerville tetrahedra, the characteristic tetrahedra of BCC. By all measures, the anion packing in quartz approaches ideal BCC as pressure increases. The compression mechanisms of quartz are compared to those of cristobalite and coesite. Si-O-Si angle-bending controls compression, in each, of these minerals. The bulk moduli, of these minerals are shown to correlate with, average nearest intertetrahedral anion distances, consistent with the hypothesis that anion-anion interactions stiffen the Si-O-Si angle as inter-tctrahedral anion distances decrease. The tetrahedral distortion in quartz with pressure is attributed to anion-anion interaction, and is not considered a compression mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Mineralogist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Body-centered cubic
  • Packing
  • Quartz, high pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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