Illite is a group of closely related non-expanding clay minerals. Illite is a secondary mineral precipitate, and an example of a phyllosilicate, or layered alumino-silicate. Its structure is a 2:1 sandwich of silica tetrahedron (T) – alumina octahedron (O) – silica tetrahedron (T) layers. The space between this T-O-T sequence of layers is occupied by poorly hydrated potassium cations which are responsible for the absence of swelling. Structurally, illite is quite similar to muscovite , magnesium , and water and slightly less tetrahedral aluminium. The chemical formula is given as (K,H 3O)(Al,Mg,Fe) 2(Si,Al) 4O 10[(OH) 2,(H 2O)], but there is considerable ion (isomorphic) substitution. It occurs as aggregates of small monoclinic grey to white crystals. Due to the small size, positive identification usually requires x-ray diffraction or SEM-EDS (automated mineralogy) analysis. Illite occurs as an altered product of muscovite and feldspar in weathering environments; it may be a component of sericite. It is common in sediments, soils, and argillaceous sedimentary rocks as well as in some low grade metamorphic rocks. The iron-rich member of the illite group, glauconite , in sediments can be differentiated by x-ray analysis.
The cation-exchange capacity (CEC) of illite is smaller than that of smectite but higher than that of kaolinite, typically around 20 – 30 meq/100 g.
Illite was first described for occurrences in the Maquoketa shale in Calhoun County, Illinois , US, in 1937. The name was derived from its type location in Illinois.
Illite is also called hydromica or hydromuscovite. Brammallite is a sodium rich analogue. Avalite is a chromium bearing variety which has been described form Mt. Avala , Serbia