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Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous, metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering.


Chemical composition

Slate is mainly composed of quartz and muscovite or illite, often along with biotite, chlorite, hematite, and pyrite along with, less frequently, apatite, graphite, kaolin, magnetite, tourmaline, or zircon as well as feldspar. Occasionally, as in the purple slates of North Wales, ferrous reduction spheres form around iron nuclei, leaving a light green spotted texture. These spheres are sometimes deformed by a subsequent applied stress field to ovoids, which appear as ellipses when viewed on a cleavage plane of the specimen.

Uses of slate

  Slate can be made into roofing slates, also called roofing shingles, installed by a slater in the USA. Slate has two lines of breakability: cleavage and grain. This makes it possible to split slate into thin sheets. Fine slate can also be used as a whetstone to hone knives. Due to its thermal stability and chemical inertness, slate has been used for laboratory bench tops and for billiard table tops. In 18th and 19th century schools, slate was extensively used for blackboards and individual writing slates for which chalk pencils were used. Because it is a good electrical insulator and fireproof, it was used to construct early 20th century electric switchboards and relay controls for large electric motors. Stephen Kettle is notable as a British sculptor for his use of slate to create statues housed in the Science Museum in London.

Slate tiles are often used for interior and exterior flooring or wall cladding. Tiles are installed and set on mortar and grouted along the edges. Chemical sealants are often used on tiles to improve durability and appearance, increase stain resistance, reduce efflorescence, and increase or reduce surface smoothness. Tiles are often sold gauged, meaning that the back surface is ground for ease of installation.

Slate is often used as a decor in freshwater aquariums. Slate will not alter the chemistry of water (except in the slate containing felspar which may leach silicates into the water resulting in excess diatom growth in marine aquaria). When broken, slate produces a natural appearance while remaining relatively flat and can be easily stacked. Silicone glue adheres to slate, creating a non-toxic bond to secure it. It is also used in stairs and pathways for the same reasons.

Traditional Japanese Go equipment uses slate for the black pieces.

Slate extraction

    Slate-producing regions in Europe include Wales (see slate industry in Wales), Cornwall (famously the town of Delabole), and Cumbria (see Burlington Slate Quarries, Honister Slate Mine and Skiddaw Slate) in the United Kingdom; parts of France (Angers, Anjou and in the Maritime Alps); Belgium (formerly); Liguria in northern Italy especially between the town of Lavagna (which means chalkboard in Italian) and Fontanabuona valley; Portugal especially around Valongo in the north of the country; Germany's (Moselle River-region, Hunsrück, Eifel, Westerwald, Thuringia and north-Bavaria); Alta, Norway (actually schist not a true slate) and Galicia. In the Americas, slate is found in Brazil around Papagaio in Minas Gerais, the east coast of Newfoundland, the Slate Belt of Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Slate Valley of Vermont and New York. The area around Granville, NY, is one place where colored slate (non-blue) is mined. Others include Wales (purple and formerly green) and Cumbria (green) in the UK; Brazil (green); China (many colours); and Newfoundland.[citation needed]

There was also a major slating operation in Monson, Maine during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The slate found in Monson is usually a dark purple to blackish color, and many local structures are still roofed with slate tiles. Of many operations there is only one business currently operating. The output was so great it formed a train route throughout the woods of Monson and as many as 18 quarries were made. St. Patricks's Cathedral in New York's roof was made from roofing slate from Monson, as well as the Headstone of John F. Kennedy.

Slate is also found in the Arctic and was used by the Inuit to make the blades for ulus. China has vast slate deposits; in recent years its export of finished and unfinished slate has increased.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Slate". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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