Electron Microscopy of Clay Surfaces

Thomas F. Bates and J. J. Comer
The Pennsylvania State University

Abstract: Improvements in replica techniques have made possible the high magnification study of textural characteristics and surface features of clay aggregrates found either in nature or in the laboratory. The most successful method of sample preparation involves pre-shadowing the specimen with platinum and backing this with a layer of carbon prior to removal of the clay with a suitable solvent.

Data on orientation and packing of clay particles are readily obtained. The method is useful to investigate clays in which the characteristic morphology is easily affected by environmental conditions or by sample preparation for other methods of study.

Replicas of kaolinite indicate that many of the pseudohexagonal plates seen in electron micrographs are cleavage fragments. Investigations of halloysite (4 H2O) using this technique prove that the tubes exist as such in the bulk clay. Striations on montmorillonite flakes that intersect at an angle of sixty degrees suggest a degree of morphological crystallinity that is apparently destroyed when the material is dispersed prior to study in the electron microscope. Replicas of dickite, attapulgite and weathered feldspar also show features that have not heretofore been seen in electron micrographs.

Clays and Clay Minerals; 1954 v. 3; no. 1; p. 1-25; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1954.0030102
© 1954, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)