AskDefine | Define halite

Dictionary Definition

halite n : naturally occurring crystalline sodium chloride [syn: rock salt]

User Contributed Dictionary





  • Estonian: haliit
  • Italian: alite, salgemma
  • Russian: галит, каменная соль

Extensive Definition

Halite is the mineral form of sodium chloride, NaCl, commonly known as rock salt. Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colourless to yellow, but may also be light blue, dark blue, and pink. It commonly occurs with other evaporite deposit minerals such as several of the sulfates, halides and borates.


Halite occurs in vast beds of sedimentary evaporite minerals that result from the drying up of enclosed lakes, playas, and seas. Salt beds may be up to 405 meters thick and underlie broad areas. In the United States and Canada extensive underground beds extend from the Appalachian basin of western New York through parts of Ontario and under much of the Michigan Basin. Other deposits are in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
Salt domes are vertical diapirs or pipe-like masses of salt that have been essentially "squeezed up" from underlying salt beds by mobilization due to the weight of overlying rock. Salt domes contain anhydrite, gypsum, and native sulfur, in addition to halite and sylvite. They are common along the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana and are often associated with petroleum deposits. Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Romania and Iran also have salt domes. Salt glaciers exist in arid Iran where the salt has broken through the surface at high elevation and flows downhill. In all of these cases, halite is said to be behaving in the manner of a rheid.
Unusual, purple, fibrous vein filling halite is found in France and a few other localities. Halite crystals termed hopper crystals appear to be "skeletons" of the typical cubes, with the edges present and stairstep depressions on, or rather in, each crystal face. In a rapidly crystallizing environment the edges of the cubes simply grow faster than the centers. Halite crystals form very quickly in some rapidly evaporating lakes resulting in modern artefacts with a coating or encrustation of halite crystals. Halite flowers are rare stalactites of curling fibers of halite that are found in certain arid caves of Australia's Nullarbor Plain. Halite stalactites and encrustations are also reported in the Quincy native copper mine of Hancock, Michigan.


Halite is often used both residentially and municipally for managing ice. Because saline (a solution of water and salt) has a lower freezing point than ordinary water, putting salt on ice will cause it to melt. It is common for homeowners in cold climates to spread 'rock salt' on their walkways and sometimes driveways after a snow storm to melt the ice. It is not necessary to use so much salt that the ice is completely melted; rather, a small amount of salt will weaken the ice so that it can be easily removed with other means. Also, many cities will spread a mixture of sand and salt on roads during and after a snowstorm to improve traction.
Rock salt is also used to make ice cream. It is not actually used in the ice cream mixture; rather, it is used to melt the ice surrounding the can holding the ice cream, causing the ice to melt at a lower temperature, thus lowering the temperature of the ice bath and quickening the freezing process.

See also


halite in Catalan: Halita
halite in Czech: Halit
halite in German: Halit
halite in Estonian: Haliit
halite in Spanish: Halita
halite in French: Halite
halite in Korean: 암염
halite in Hebrew: הליט
halite in Italian: Halite
halite in Lithuanian: Akmens druska
halite in Norwegian: Halitt
halite in Dutch: Haliet
halite in Japanese: 岩塩
halite in Polish: Sól kamienna
halite in Portuguese: Halita
halite in Romanian: Sare gemă
halite in Russian: Галит
halite in Slovak: Halit
halite in Finnish: Vuorisuola
halite in Ukrainian: Галіт
halite in Chinese: 矿盐
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