Soil Minerals in the Al2O3-SiO2-H2O System and a Theory of Their Formation*

J. A. Kittrick
Department of Agronomy, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. 99163
* This investigation was supported in part, by contract WP-01016 with the U.S. Public Health Service, and is published as Scientific Paper No. 3215 Washington Agr. Exp. Sta. Proj. 1885.
Professor of Soils,

Abstract: An attempt has been made to assemble the best thermodynamic information currently available for soil minerals in the Al2O3-SiO2-H2O system at 25°C and 1 atm. Montmorillonite is included by considering its aluminum silicate phase. Diagrams are presented so that the stability of the minerals can be visualized in relation to the ionic environment. Although the Al2O3-SiO2-H2O system is a very simple one compared to soils and sediments, the stability diagrams depict a mineral stability sequence and mineral pair associations that are in good agreement with natural relations.

According to the stability diagram, mineral pairs that can form in intimate association are gibbsite-kaolinite, kaolinite-montmorillonite, and montmorillonite-amorphous silica. Forbidden pairs are amorphous silica-kaolinite, amorphous silica-gibbsite, and montmorillonite-gibbsite. The formation of intimate mixtures of three or more of these minerals is also forbidden. The stability diagrams predict ion activity relationships that are in reasonable agreement with those obtained from soils and sediments.

Amorphous silica probably limits high silica levels, with montmorillonite also forming at high silica levels. Kaolinite forms at intermediate and gibbsite at low silica levels. These minerals in turn probably control the activity of aluminum ions at a level appropriate to the pH. The formation of gibbsite, kaolinite, montmorillonite and amorphous silica appears to be controlled by a combination of kinetics and equilibria. That is, the kinetic dissolution of unstable silicates appears to control the H4SiO4 level. The new mineral(s) most stable at that H4SiO4 level appear to precipitate in response to solution equilibria.

Clays and Clay Minerals; August 1969 v. 17; no. 3; p. 157-167; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1969.0170304
© 1969, The Clay Minerals Society
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