Biotite is the most common mica mineral and also known as black mica, a silicate mineral in the common mica group. Approximate chemical formula K (Mg, Fe). It can be found in massive crystal layers weighing several hundred pounds. It is abundant in metamorphic rocks (both regional and contact), pegmatites, and also in granites and other invasive magmatic rocks. Biotite usually occurs in brown to black, dark green variety.

It is a name used for a range of black mica minerals with different chemical compositions but with very similar physical properties. These minerals are usually indistinguishable from each other without laboratory analysis. There is a small list of biotite minerals that were down.

Crystallography: Monoclinic; prismatic. In tabular or short prismatic crystals with prominent basal planes. Crystals rare, frequently pseudorhombohedral. Usually in irregular foliated masses; often in disseminated scales or in scaly aggregates.

Chemical Composition: Biotite is a complex mineral with a chemical formula primarily represented as K(Mg,Fe)_3AlSi_3O_10(OH)_2. This composition reflects the fact that biotite contains potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), and oxygen (O) atoms, along with hydroxide (OH) ions.

Crystal Structure: Biotite belongs to the phyllosilicate class of minerals, characterized by its sheet-like structure. Its crystal structure consists of layers of silicon-oxygen (Si-O) tetrahedra, bonded together with sheets of aluminum-oxygen (Al-O) octahedra. These layers create the characteristic cleavage planes that allow biotite to split into thin, flexible sheets.

Diagnostic Features: Characterized by its micaceous cleavage and dark color

Name: In honor of the French physicist, J. B. Biot.

Similar Species: Glauconite, commonly found in green pellets in sedimentary deposits, is similar in composition to biotite.

MineralChemical Composition

Occurrence and Formation

Biotite occurs in a wide range of geological settings and is commonly found in different types of rocks. Its formation is closely linked to the processes of magma cooling and metamorphism:

1. Igneous Rocks: Biotite commonly forms in igneous rocks, particularly in the following settings:

  • Granite: Biotite can be a significant component of granite, where it crystallizes from the cooling magma. The presence of biotite in granite contributes to its characteristic dark color.
  • Diorite: It also occurs in diorite, a coarse-grained igneous rock.
  • Gabbro: Biotite may be found in gabbro, a mafic intrusive rock.

2. Metamorphic Rocks: Biotite can be present in a variety of metamorphic rocks, including schist, gneiss, and phyllite. It often forms through the metamorphism of pre-existing minerals, such as clay minerals, during high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. This transformation leads to the growth of biotite crystals within the rock.

Formation Processes:

The formation of biotite primarily depends on the geological processes mentioned above. The key processes involved in biotite formation are:

  1. Magmatic Crystallization: In igneous rocks, biotite crystals form from magma as it cools and solidifies. Biotite is one of the minerals that crystallizes early in the cooling process due to its relatively low melting point compared to other minerals like quartz or feldspar.
  2. Metamorphism: Biotite can also form during regional or contact metamorphism. In this process, pre-existing minerals undergo recrystallization and reorientation of mineral grains under high temperature and pressure conditions. Biotite can grow and replace other minerals during metamorphism, leading to its presence in various metamorphic rocks.

Associated Minerals:

Biotite is often found alongside other minerals, depending on the geological context. Common minerals associated with biotite include:

  1. Feldspars: Biotite is frequently found in association with feldspar minerals like orthoclase and plagioclase in many igneous and metamorphic rocks.
  2. Quartz: In igneous and metamorphic rocks, quartz is often present alongside biotite.
  3. Hornblende: Biotite and hornblende are often found together in many igneous rocks, such as diorite and gabbro.
  4. Muscovite: Muscovite is another mica mineral that can sometimes be found in the same geological settings as biotite. However, they have different compositions and properties.
  5. Garnet: In some high-pressure metamorphic rocks like schist and gneiss, biotite may be associated with minerals like garnet, forming distinctive mineral assemblages.
  6. Calcite and Dolomite: In certain carbonate-rich rocks that undergo metamorphism, biotite can coexist with calcite or dolomite.

The specific mineral associations can provide important clues to geologists about the geological history and conditions under which the rock formed. Biotite’s presence, along with these associated minerals, contributes to the overall mineralogical composition and character of rocks in various geological settings.

Biotite Physical Properties

Chemical ClassificationDark mica
ColorBlack, dark green, dark brown
StreakWhite to gray, flakes often produced
DiaphaneityThin sheets are transparent to translucent, books are opaque.
CleavageBasal, perfect
Mohs Hardness2.5 to 3
Specific Gravity2.7 to 3.4
Diagnostic PropertiesDark color, perfect cleavage
Chemical CompositionK(Mg,Fe)2-3Al1-2Si2-3O10(OH,F)2
Crystal SystemMonoclinic
UsesVery little industrial use

Biotite Optical Properties

Biotite under the microscope PPL and XPL
Crystal SystemMonoclinic (2/m)
Crystal HabitPseudo-hexagonal prisms or lamellar plates without crystal outline.
Physical PropertiesH = 2.5 – 3
G = 2.7 – 3.3The color of biotite in hand sample is brown to black (sometimes greenish). Its streak is white or gray, and it has a vitreous luster.
Cleavage(001) perfect
Color/PleochroismTypically brown, brownish green or reddish brown
Optic SignBiaxial (-)
Optic OrientationY=b
Z^a = 0 – 9o
X^c = 0 – 9o
optic plane (010)
Refractive Indices
alpha =
beta =
gamma =
Max Birefringence0.03-0.07
Extinction Parallel or close to parallel
Dispersionv > r (weak)

Uses and Applications

Biotite has several important uses and applications in various fields due to its unique properties and characteristics:

  1. Geological and Mineralogical Studies:
    • Indicator of Rock Composition: Biotite is a valuable mineral for geologists and mineralogists as its presence in rocks provides insights into the mineralogical composition and history of the rock.
    • Geochronology: Biotite can be used in radiometric dating techniques like potassium-argon dating to determine the age of rocks and geological events. This is especially important for understanding the timing of geological processes and events.
  2. Industrial Applications:
    • Filler Material: Biotite, although less common than muscovite, can be used as a filler material in various industrial products. It is sometimes added to paints, plastics, and other materials to improve their properties.
    • Insulating Material: In some specialized applications, thin sheets of biotite can be used as insulating material due to its electrical insulating properties.
  3. Gemstone and Ornamental Use:
    • Rare Gemstone: Transparent varieties of biotite with good clarity and attractive colors, such as green or reddish-brown, can be cut and used as gemstones. However, biotite gemstones are relatively rare compared to other minerals used in jewelry.
  4. Scientific Research:
    • Mineralogical Research: Biotite is often studied in laboratories and research settings to better understand its crystallography, physical properties, and behavior under different conditions. This research contributes to our knowledge of minerals and their properties.
  5. Education:
    • Teaching and Learning: Biotite is used as an educational tool in geology and mineralogy courses. It helps students learn about mineral identification, cleavage, and other geological concepts.
  6. Historical Significance:
    • Historical Documentation: Biotite has been used in the past for documenting geological formations and rock samples. It played a role in early geological studies and remains important for historical reference.

It’s important to note that while biotite has these applications, it is not as widely used or commercially valuable as some other minerals. Its significance lies primarily in its contribution to geological research, particularly in dating rocks and understanding their composition and formation processes. In industrial and ornamental applications, it is often overshadowed by other minerals with more desirable properties.

Biotite vs. Muscovite

Biotite and muscovite are two closely related minerals that belong to the mica group of sheet silicate minerals. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct differences in terms of their chemical composition, physical properties, and geological occurrences. Here’s a comparison between biotite and muscovite:

Chemical Composition:

  1. Biotite: Biotite has a more complex chemical composition compared to muscovite. Its general formula is K(Mg,Fe)_3AlSi_3O_10(OH)_2, which means it contains potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), and oxygen (O) atoms, along with hydroxide (OH) ions.
  2. Muscovite: Muscovite, on the other hand, has a simpler chemical composition with a formula of KAl2(AlSi3O10)(OH)2. It contains potassium (K), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), oxygen (O), and hydroxide (OH) ions.

Color and Appearance:

  1. Biotite: Biotite is typically dark brown to black, although it can also appear green, red-brown, or even colorless in some cases. It has a darker color due to the presence of iron (Fe) in its structure.
  2. Muscovite: Muscovite is usually light-colored, ranging from silvery-white to pale brown. Its light color is due to the absence of iron (Fe) in its composition.


  1. Biotite: Biotite is usually translucent to opaque, which means light does not pass through it easily.
  2. Muscovite: Muscovite is generally transparent or translucent, and it has a characteristic pearly luster, making it valuable as a decorative and ornamental mineral.


  1. Biotite: Biotite exhibits excellent basal cleavage, meaning it can be easily split into thin, flexible sheets along its cleavage planes.
  2. Muscovite: Muscovite also has excellent basal cleavage, and this property is one of the reasons it is commonly used in the manufacture of thin, transparent sheets known as mica.

Common Geological Occurrences:

  1. Biotite: Biotite is commonly found in a wide range of geological settings, including igneous rocks like granite, diorite, and gabbro, as well as in various metamorphic rocks. It is associated with the cooling of magma and metamorphic processes.
  2. Muscovite: Muscovite is often associated with pegmatite rocks and can also be found in schist and gneiss, which are metamorphic rocks. It is a primary mineral in some pegmatites and is mined for its use in electrical insulation and as a decorative material.

In summary, biotite and muscovite are both mica minerals with sheet-like structures and excellent basal cleavage, but they differ in terms of chemical composition, color, transparency, and geological occurrences. Biotite tends to be darker in color and is more commonly found in a broader range of rock types, while muscovite is known for its light color, transparency, and specific uses in electrical insulation and ornamental applications.


• Bonewitz, R. (2012). Rocks and minerals. 2nd ed. London: DK Publishing.
• Dana, J. D. (1864). Manual of Mineralogy… Wiley.
• (2019): Mineral information, data and localities.. [online] Available at: [Accessed. 2019].
• (2019). Geosciences | Smith College. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2019].

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