Synthesis of Highly Microporous and Hydrophilic Alumina-Pillared Montmorillonite: Water-Sorption Properties

P. B. Malla and S. Komarneni1
Materials Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
1 Also with the Department of Agronomy.

Abstract: A montmorillonite exchanged with large hydroxy-Al cations was thermally treated to convert the hydroxy cations to oxide pillars and to generate permanent microporosity in the interlayers. The pillared clay products were characterized by X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) and water-sorption measurements to delineate the effect of aging of the pillaring solutions, the methods of drying and concentration of clay-water suspensions, and the temperatures of calcination on micropore volumes. Although samples prepared at different conditions gave d(001) reflections of 17–17.5 Å, at least to 500°C the concentrations of clay-water suspensions and the temperatures of calcination significantly changed the pore-size distribution and the volume of micropores present in the sample, as calculated from the water-sorption isotherms. A narrow pore-size distribution having little or no macroporosity or external surface condensation was observed in samples prepared by the addition of the pillaring solution directly to the clay (solid) without first making a clay-water suspension and calcining the sample at ≥400°C. About 87% of the total volume was found to be micropores of ≤ 14–17 Å in the sample calcined at 600°C. Aging the pillaring solution, however, did not influence either the water-sorption isotherms or the XRD patterns significantly under the conditions specified. Essentially the same results were obtained for samples prepared from both hydroxy-Al polymer (OH/Al = 2) and aluminum chlorohydrol (ACH) solutions.

Although alumina-pillared clays exhibited an extreme type-I isotherm (Langmuir type) for nitrogen adsorption, the sorption of water vapor gave an isotherm of unusual shape that fit neither a BET nor a Langmuir equation. This latter behavior has previously been attributed to a unique pore size and hydrophobicity and is apparently common to all pillared montmorillonite materials. The hydrophobicity of the pillared clay apparently developed on calcination by the migration of protons from the interlayers to the octahedral sheets, in which sites of cationic substitution (negative charge) were located. Protons migrated back to the interlayers by treatment with NH3, which subsequently converted to NH4+ in the interlayers. The exchange of the NH4+ by Ca2+ introduced hydrophilicity to the alumina-pillared clay, which was reflected both in the shape of the water isotherm (close to moderate Brunauer type I), the heat of sorption, and the total sorption capacity.

Key Words: Hydrophobicity • Montmorillonite • Pillared interlayer complex • Porosity • Surface condensation • Thermal treatment • X-ray powder diffraction

Clays and Clay Minerals; August 1990 v. 38; no. 4; p. 363-372; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1990.0380405
© 1990, The Clay Minerals Society
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