Development of Layer Charge and Kinetics of Experimental Smectite Alteration

James J. Howard and Della M. Roy
Schlumberger-Doll Research, Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877
Materials Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pennsylvania 16802

Abstract: Sodium-saturated Wyoming bentonite was hydrothermally reacted at 150° and 250°C for 30 to 180 days to determine smectite alteration rates that might be applied to nuclear-waste repository design. Na-Ca solutions deficient in K were used to determine the role of interlayer cations in the creation of high layer-charge in the smectites. The results provide insight into the mechanism and timing of various steps in the diagenetic alteration of smectite to illite. X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) analyses of the reacted clay showed little effect on the character of the 17-Å reflection even after 180 days at 250°C. Potassium saturation of these reacted clays and re-examination by XRD indicated collapse of some smectite layers, leaving at most only 60% expandable layers. The development of layer charge sufficient to cause collapse on saturation with a low hydration energy exchange-cation does not require K in the reacting fluid. Rate constants for the illitization reactions as determined by K-saturated collapse are between 1.0 × 10−3 and 2.8 × 10−3/day with activation energies <3.5 kcal/mole. Ca in a Na-silicate-bicarbonate solution slightly reduced the illitization rate constants. These rate constants are higher than expected from extrapolation of studies of beidellite-composition glasses at higher temperatures, but lower than values obtained in studies of natural clays in artificial sea water. The release of Si, Al, and Mg in the 150°C experiments suggests congruent dissolution of the smectite. In contrast, at 250°C the release of Al was not stoichiometric with Si; as little as one half of the relative available Si was released. Rather than different mechanisms for dissolution at the two temperatures, the conclusion is that noncrystalline Al-rich phases formed at greater rates at higher temperatures. The cation-exchange capacities for several of these reacted smectites were significantly less than expected, suggesting a clogging of interlayer sites, perhaps by Al-complexes.

Key Words: Alteration • Hydrothermal • Illite • Layer charge • Nuclear waste repository • Smectite

Clays and Clay Minerals; April 1985 v. 33; no. 2; p. 81-88; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1985.0330201
© 1985, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)