No, seawater is not a mineral, because it is not a solid, the molecules are not arranged in an orderly fashion, and its chemical composition is not consistent.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain the five characteristics a substance or material needs to have to qualify as a mineral, and how seawater fails to meet a few or even all of them.
Is Seawater a Mineral: The Five Characteristics of a Mineral Are…
Geologically speaking, a material must have the five following characteristics to be considered a mineral. We know that commercial products are often named “mineral” this or that.
We also know that legally some materials are called “minerals” though they do not pass the geological qualifications.
Geologically speaking, the answer to the following five questions must be a yes to be considered a mineral.
First, does the material form in nature without the involvement of humans, even though humans may also make the substance?
Second, is the material a solid?
Third, is the material inorganic?
Fourth, is the chemical composition of the substance consistent?
Fifth and finally, is the internal structure of the substance consistently orderly?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, then the material is not a mineral.
First, Does Seawater Exist in Nature Without the Involvement of Humans?
The answer to this question is yes, of course seawater exists in nature without human involvement. Humans could make seawater by mixing minerals into water if they wanted but in general, we don’t.
Second, Is Seawater a Solid?
The answer to this question is sometimes. Seawater could take a liquid form or a solid form. The water in the seawater could also move to the gaseous phase.
If seawater met the other criteria while it was in the solid form, it would qualify as a mineral, just as pure water does when it is in its ice phase.
But since seawater does not meet the other qualifications, it is not worthwhile to do much more arguing about solid seawater versus liquid seawater.
Third, is the Material Inorganic?
The answer to this question is no, seawater is not inorganic.
Here’s the thing with seawater. It is from the sea. It contains any number of elements, including but not limited to sodium, calcium, potassium, carbon, lithium, sulfur, and magnesium.
it also contains a lot of organic material as a result of being in contact with organic life forms such as water loving plants, animals, and fish.
To be considered organic, a substance must contain C-H (carbon to hydrogen) bonds.
We think that most of the seawater out there is inorganic, but that it does contain traces of organic materials.
This is why we think that seawater (if it were in solid form) would not qualify under this question.
Fourth, is the Chemical Composition of Seawater Consistent?
No, the chemical composition of seawater around the world is not consistent. While in a given area, perhaps for miles at a time, it might be.
But there are going to be areas around the world where seawater that is located near a deposit of some mineral is just going to naturally have more of that particular mineral in the water.
For example, some oceans are saltier than others. And there is less salt in the water as you get nearer to the equator and also to the north and south poles.
The chemical compositions are not consistent.
Compare seawater to gold as another example. If you take gold from anywhere in the world, gold is gold. it has an established chemical composition. If there is some impurity mixed in with the gold, the chemical composition of the gold does not change.
The chemical composition of the sample of gold would change to reflect the additional material, but the gold itself would not be any different.
Seawater, on the other hand, is water mixed with any number of elements and compounds. It changes when other elements or compounds are added.
And because the composition differs, seawater fails to meet this qualification.
Fifth, is the Internal Structure of Seawater Consistently Orderly?
No, the internal structure of seawater is not orderly. The molecules in seawater when it is a liquid move around, and are not orderly at all.
If the seawater were frozen, there would be organization. That being said, we cannot say for certain that the organization would be entirely orderly or consistent, as the material can and does contain any number of inorganic and organic materials.
The ice structure would be forming around these materials, which would have their own structures.
Given that ice seawater would be chemically different around the world, we don’t think that seawater would pass this qualification.
Seawater is a Mixture, Not a Mineral
Seawater is not a mineral. Instead, it is water full of any number of elements and compounds which retain their original characteristics and behaviors.
These materials are not chemically bonded to the water, and can be removed from the seawater. In fact, many companies do just that (mining minerals from seawater).
Interested in learning more about rocks and minerals? Check out our blog for our latest articles.