Adsorption of Hydroxy-Al Polycations and Destabilization of Illite and Montmorillonite Suspensions

Baohua Gu and H. E. Doner
Department of Soil Science, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720

Abstract: Water-infiltration characteristics of soil can be improved by preventing clay dispersion. The present study determined the adsorption properties of hydroxy-Al polycations (Al-p) and their relation to the destabilization of clay suspensions. Al-p was synthesized and fractionated into nominal molecular weights between 104 and 5 × 104. The reactions of Al-p with Na-illite and Na-montmorillonite indicated a very strong affinity of Al-p to the clay surfaces. The maximum adsorptions of Al-p by Na-illite and Na-montmorillonite were found to be 0.37 and 1.7 mmole Al/g, and very close to the cation-exchange capacity of the two clays, suggesting that the adsorption was chiefly controlled by the mechanism of charge screening. Adsorption of Al-p increased the points of zero charge (PZCs) and the apparent points of zero salt effect (PZSEs) of illite and montmorillonite. PZSEs for both clays were 4.7 at their maximum Al-p adsorption, and PZCs ranged from 5.3 to 6.4, depending on solution ionic strength and the individual clay minerals. The differences in PZCs were probably due to outer-sphere complex formation between Al-p-treated illite and montmorillonite and the swamping electrolyte. Critical flocculation concentrations (CFCs) of Al-p for Na-illite and Na-montmorillonite were at 0.28 and 1.0 mmole Al/g, whereas zero electrophoretic mobilities were at about 0.36 and 1.67 mmole Al/g Al-p additions. Excessive addition of Al-p reversed this surface charge of clay colloids and restabilized the illite but not montmorillonite suspensions. This difference was probably due to the stronger and more extensive interparticle bridging of montmorillonite particles by Al-p than those of illite. The CFCs for the two clays were also found to be dependent on sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), pH, and ionic strength. Increases in SAR and pH significantly increased the CFC, whereas an increase in ionic strength decreased the CFC.

Key Words: Adsorption • Flocculation • Hydroxy-Al • Illite • Montmorillonite • Point of zero charge

Clays and Clay Minerals; October 1990 v. 38; no. 5; p. 493-500; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1990.0380505
© 1990, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)