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Home » Rocks » Sedimentary Rocks


Sedimentary Rocks

Picture Gallery of the Most Common Rock Types

Breccia

Breccia is a clastic sedimentary rock that is composed of large (over two millimeter diameter) angular fragments. The spaces between the large fragments can be filled with a matrix of smaller particles or a mineral cement which binds the rock together. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

What Are Sedimentary Rocks?

Sedimentary rocks are formed by the accumulation of sediments. There are three basic types of sedimentary rocks.

Clastic sedimentary rocks such as breccia, conglomerate, sandstone, siltstone, and shale are formed from mechanical weathering debris.

Chemical sedimentary rocks, such as rock salt, iron ore, chert, flint, some dolomites, and some limestones, form when dissolved materials precipitate from solution.

Organic sedimentary rocks such as coal, some dolomites, and some limestones, form from the accumulation of plant or animal debris.

Photos and brief descriptions of some common sedimentary rock types are shown on this page.



Coal

Coal is an organic sedimentary rock that forms mainly from plant debris. The plant debris usually accumulates in a swamp environment. Coal is combustible and is often mined for use as a fuel. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Chert

Chert is a microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline sedimentary rock material composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2). It occurs as nodules and concretionary masses and less frequently as a layered deposit. It breaks with a conchoidal fracture, often producing very sharp edges. Early people took advantage of how chert breaks and used it to fashion cutting tools and weapons. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.



Conglomerate

Conglomerate is a clastic sedimentary rock that contains large (greater then two millimeters in diameter) rounded particles. The space between the pebbles is generally filled with smaller particles and/or a chemical cement that binds the rock together. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.






Flint

Flint is a hard, tough, chemical or biochemical sedimentary rock that breaks with a conchoidal fracture. It is a form of microcrystalline quartz that is typically called “chert” by geologists. It often forms as nodules in sedimentary rocks such as chalk and marine limestones.

dolomite

Dolomite (also known as "dolostone" and "dolomite rock") is a chemical sedimentary rock that is very similar to limestone. It is thought to form when limestone or lime mud is modified by magnesium-rich ground water. The specimen shown above is about four inches (ten centimeters) across.

Limestone

Limestone is a rock that is composed primarily of calcium carbonate. It can form organically from the accumulation of shell, coral, algal and fecal debris. It can also form chemically from the precipitation of calcium carbonate from lake or ocean water. Limestone is used in many ways. Some of the most common are: production of cement, crushed stone and acid neutralization. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Iron Ore

Iron Ore is a chemical sedimentary rock that forms when iron and oxygen (and sometimes other substances) combine in solution and deposit as a sediment. Hematite (shown above) is the most common sedimentary iron ore mineral. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Rock Salt

Rock Salt is a chemical sedimentary rock that forms from the evaporation of ocean or saline lake waters. It is also known by the mineral name "halite". It is rarely found at Earth's surface, except in areas of very arid climate. It is often mined for use in the chemical industry or for use as a winter highway treatment. Some halite is processed for use as a seasoning for food. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Oil Shale

Oil Shale is a rock that contains significant amounts of organic material in the form of kerogen. Up to 1/3 of the rock can be solid organic material. Liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons can be extracted from the oil shale but the rock must be heated and/or treated with solvents. This is usually much less efficient than drilling rocks that will yield oil or gas directly into a well. The processes used for hydrocarbon extraction also produce emissions and waste products that cause significant environmental concerns.

Shale

Shale is a clastic sedimentary rock that is made up of clay-size (less then 1/256 millimeter in diameter) weathering debris. It typically breaks into thin flat pieces. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Sandstone

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock made up mainly of sand-size (1/16 to 2 millimeter diameter) weathering debris. Environments where large amounts of sand can accumulate include beaches, deserts, flood plains and deltas. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

The best way to learn about rocks is to have a collection of specimens to examine while you study. Seeing and handling the rocks will help you understand their composition and texture much better than reading about them on a website or in a book. The Geology.com store offers inexpensive rock collections that can be mailed anywhere in the United States or U.S. Territories. Mineral collections and instructive books are also available.

Siltstone

Siltstone is a clastic sedimentary rock that forms from silt-size (between 1/256 and 1/16 millimeter diameter) weathering debris. The specimen shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

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