The Mica group represents 37 phyllosilicate minerals that have a layered or platy texture. The commercially important micas are muscovite and phlogopite. Mica’s possess perfect basal cleavage, allowing crystals to be split into very thin sheets that are tough and flexible. Mica sheets are also transparent to opaque, resilient, reflective, refractive, dielectric, chemically inert, insulating, lightweight, and hydrophilic. Mica also is stable when exposed to electricity, light, moisture, and extreme temperatures.
Because of their perfect cleavage, flexibility and elasticity, infusibility, low thermal and electrical conductivity, and high dielectric strength, muscovite and phlogopite have found widespread application throughout industry , commerce and household goods. Mica provides an outstanding combination of chemical, physical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties which cannot found in any other insulating product.
Technical grade sheet mica is used in electrical components, electronics, in atomic force microscopy and as window sheets. Other uses include diaphragms for oxygen-breathing equipment, marker dials for navigation compasses, optical filters, pyrometers, thermal regulators, stove and kerosene heater windows, radiation aperture covers for microwave ovens, and micathermic heater elements. Mica is birefringent and is therefore commonly used to make quarter and half wave plates. Specialized applications for sheet mica are found in aerospace components in air-, ground-, and sea-launched missile systems, laser devices, medical electronics and radar systems. Mica is mechanically stable in micrometer-thin sheets which are relatively transparent to radiation (such as alpha particles) while being impervious to most gases. It is therefore used as a window on radiation detectors such as Geiger-Müller tubes.
Sheet mica is used principally in the electronic and electrical industries. Its usefulness in these applications is derived from its unique electrical and thermal properties and its mechanical properties, which allow it to be cut, punched, stamped, and machined to close tolerances.
Specifically, mica is unusual in that it is a good electrical insulator at the same time as being a good thermal conductor. The leading use of block mica is as an electrical insulator in electronic equipment. High-quality block mica is processed to line the gauge glasses of high-pressure steam boilers because of its flexibility, transparency, and resistance to heat and chemical attack. Only high-quality muscovite film mica, which is variously called India ruby mica or ruby muscovite mica, is used as a dielectric in capacitors. The highest quality mica film is used to manufacture capacitors for calibration standards. The next lower grade is used in transmitting capacitors. Receiving capacitors use a slightly lower grade of high-quality muscovite.
Mica sheets are used to provide structure for heating wire (such as in Kanthal or Nichrome) in heating elements and can withstand up to 900 °C (1,650 °F).
Muscovite and phlogopite splittings can be fabricated into various built-up mica products. Produced by mechanized or hand setting of overlapping splittings and alternate layers of binders and splittings, built-up mica is used primarily as an electrical insulation material. Mica insulation is used in high-temperature and fire-resistant power cables in aluminium plants, blast furnaces, critical wiring circuits (for example, defense systems, fire and security alarm systems, and surveillance systems), heaters and boilers, lumber kilns, metal smelters, and tanks and furnace wiring. Specific high-temperature mica-insulated wire and cable is rated to work for up to 15 minutes in molten aluminium, glass, and steel. Major products are bonding materials; flexible, heater, molding, and segment plates; mica paper; and tape.
Mica Plate also has a large consumer use as a lampshade material in many lighting applications, the paper when formed and cut and molded to shape creates a warm light with unique, striking colors caused by mineral deposit variations. Additional decorative uses include applications in privacy screens, Fireplace screens, wallpaper, Picture matts and many other decorative functions where it’s unique texture and reflective look add a unique touch.