Creating and displaying virtual silicate structures using geographic information systems

Patrick J. Kennelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper illustrates the capabilities of geographic information system (GIS) software to create and display silicate structures. These models require no knowledge of editing functionality within the GIS software. Instead, the required input is the coordinates of the individual atoms or tetrahedra constructed in a word processing or spreadsheet program. These coordinates are then imported into the GIS software, and can be used to display chain, ring, sheet, and framework structures. Links to silicate models exported from the GIS software in a virtual reality modeling language (VRML) format are provided. These models can be displayed using a web browser equipped with any freely available VRML plug-in. Creating GIS-based silicate structures is an alternative to other software packages such as CrystalMaker® and Xtaldraw® designed specifically to create and display atomic structures. Although these GIS-based methods do not have all of the functionality of custom applications, GIS is a pervasive and growing technology with numerous applications in earth sciences and many other disciplines. Instructors may consider using this GIS-based method to introduce geospatial concepts, illustrate the breadth of GIS applications, and to establish interactive links between mineralogy and other disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-243
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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