The unit cell height in the c-direction of muscovite mica is well established at 10 Å. However, we have observed steps much lower than this whilst imaging freshly cleaved mica surfaces in an atomic force microscope. The steps, 1.0±0.05 Å high, are unstable and disappear in a period of minutes after cleavage. We propose that they are due to the presence of domains of residual K+ ions that form two matching patchworks on the cleaved faces. Upon cleavage, they relax inwards from the bulk equilibrium position 1.6 Å above the oxygen atoms of the tetrahedral silicate. Possible mechanisms for the disappearance of the steps are discussed.
- Atomic force microscopy
- Surface structure