Abstract: The 16-8-, 8-5-, 5-2-, 2-1-, 1-0.5-, 0.5-0.3-, 0.3-0.1-, and <0.1-µm size fractions were centrifuged from a Georgia (U.S.A.) sedimentary kaolin and a hydrothermal kaolin from the Sasso mine (Italy) and analyzed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), infrared spectroscopy (IR), differential thermal analysis (DTA) and thermogravimetry (TGA) together with the corresponding whole rocks. All size fractions of the Georgia sample consisted dominantly of well-crystallized, fine-grained kaolinite, associated with minor quantities of smectite. Some halloysite-like elongate particles were noted by SEM in the intermediate size fractions, minor amounts of quartz were identified in the coarsest size fractions, and < 1% noncrystalline material and traces of organic material were suspected in the finest size fraction. The crystallinity of the kaolinite as measured by XRD and IR varied moderately with size. IR suggested that nacrite-like stacking disorder increased with decreasing size for particles < 5 µm in size.
In the Sasso sample kaolinite dominated all size fractions and was accompanied by dickite in the coarse and by halloysite in the fine size fractions. Regular mixed-layer illite/smectite (I/S) was present in all size fractions and dominated in the finest. Abundant quartz and traces of alunite were identified in the whole rock and coarsest size fractions. The kaolinite in this sample showed marked variation in stacking order and crystallinity, as shown by changes in XRD, IR, and DTA patterns.
The observed compositional and structural variations in the size fractions of the Georgia sedimentary kaolin are small, as expected from formational environment, which was characterized by low temperatures and relative stable genetic conditions. The much more marked differences in composition within the size fractions of the Sasso hydrothermal kaolin are likely a result of the broad range of temperatures and fluid chemistry of its formational environment. The sequence dickite-well-crystallized kaolinite-kaolinite-halloysite is probably temperature-dependent.