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Siliciclastics: Composition Page 1 de1

Siliciclastics: Composition

In sedimentary rocks the constituents are organized into

framework grains, matrix and cement. Framework grains
and matrix are allogenic (transported to the site of
deposition), whereas cements are authigenic (precipitated at
the site of deposition).

The three most common framework grain types are:

l Quartz: both monocrystalline (single grains) and polycrystalline (e.g., chert)

l Feldspar
l Lithic Fragments (any pre -existing rock fragment)

For a description of the most common rock fragments visible in hand specimen click HERE!!

Common cementing minerals include:

l the carbonate minerals: calcite, dolomite, ankerite and siderite

l quartz (as overgrowths on quartz framework grains),
l feldspars such as orthoclase (as overgrowths on detrital orthoclase grains) and albite (neomorphic), and
l clays of the mica, smectite, kaolinite and chlorite groups.

Note that clays occur both as terrigenous matrix, the products of hydrolysis reactions in the soils of the source area for the sediments, and
as diagenetic cements, which are the result of similar reactions occurring within the sediments themselves. Distinguishing the mineralogy
of the matrix and cement clays requires the use of the scanning electron microscope and is beyond the (optical) scope of this course.

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6,917 accesses since August 8, 1997.

Last Modified: Sunday, 19-Nov-2000 16:38:38 PST

EOSC 221
Introduction to Petrology
University of British Columbia 03/05/2002
Siliciclastics: Grain Size Page 1 de2

Siliciclastics: Grain Size

One of the textural properties of a rock is the size of the grains. The two important parameters are the

l modal (average) size

l the size distribution, commonly described using the term sorting.

Grain Size Scales

The scales used to define grain sizes in sediments

and sedimentary rocks are grade scales; that is,
they are created by imposing arbitrary
subdivisions on a natural continuum. The
terminology which is most familiar to us is that of
the Wentworth Scale, which includes the major
classes: gravel, sand and clay, with their
numerous subdivisions. Because the range of
grain sizes found in nature is so large, a
logarithmic scale, such as the Udden-Wentworth
scale shown to the left, is more practical than a
linear scale.

The phi scale, devised by Krumbein, is computed

by the following equation:

from Wentworth (1922)

Grain Size Distribution

The range in grain size in a siliclastic rock is commonly

known as sorting. The sorting can be computed by from a
histogram of the grain size distribution; it is most often
estimated using a visual chart such as the one you see on
the right. Sorting is one of the parameters used to
determine Textural Maturity. 03/05/2002
Siliciclastics: Grain Shape Page 1 de2

Siliciclastics: Grain Shape

Grain shape comprises attributes which refer to the external morphology of particles. These include surface texture,
roundness and form. Grain shape (Bustin, 1995) is determined by:

l internal structure, (mineral cleavage);

l characteristics of source rock such as jointing and bedding;
l lithology;
l hardness
l fracture
l transport

Surface Texture

Surface texture refers to irregularities on the surface so small that they do not affect the overall shape of the grain. Features include various
types of pits, frosting, etc. These features MAY have something to do with depositional environment. However, they are difficult to
determine without an SEM (scanning electron microscope). We'll basically ignore the property in this course.


Roundness is defined as the average radius of curvature of corners (r i in figure) to

that of the largest inscribing circle (R in figure).

As you can see, that type of measurement is very tricky.

Most geologists compare the roundness of the

grains in a rock or sediment to prepared charts
such as the one illustrated to the left, or the
one handed out to you in your sedimentary
textures handout.


Form refers to attributes involving the three dimensional

morphology: i.e., the variation in proportion of the three axes
which define the geometric shape. Various measures are used, the
most popular include:

l Sphericity - proximity in shape to a sphere; normally

visually estimated using charts.
l Zing diagrams - plot the ratio of the axes (short: 03/05/2002
Siliciclastics: Grain Shape Page 2 de2
intermediate) vs. (intermediate to long). The shape terms
given in the picture on the right are most commonly used to describe pebble to boulder size particles. Often a visual estimate, rather
than actual measurements are used.

Back to Siliciclastics Petrography

Forward to Siliciclastic Fabrics

6,993 accesses since August 8, 1997.

Last Modified: Sunday, 19-Nov-2000 16:38:38 PST

EOSC 221
Introduction to Petrology
University of British Columbia 03/05/2002