An Electron Optical Investigation of the Alteration of Kaolinite to Halloysite

Balbir Singh and R. J. Gilkes
Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, School of Agriculture The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, W.A., 6009, Australia

Abstract: Parallel-oriented and exceptionally long (> 10 µm) tubes of halloysite occur in the pallid zone of a deeply-weathered lateritic profile on granite in southwest Australia.

Transmission electron microscopy and selected-area electron diffraction of ultrathin sections showed that kaolinite plates within pseudomorphs of mica crystals had fractured at irregular intervals along the a crystallographic axis to produce laths elongated along the b axis. The laths near the edges of the pseudomorphs were less constrained by the pseudomorph and had rolled to produce halloysite tubes. The tubes varied in diameter and degree of roundness. Some tubes were polyhedral rather than cylindrical in cross section. The length and number of planar faces in a tube and the angle between faces varied, exhibiting no consistent pattern.

Tubes in dispersed clay samples showed two types of twinning. In the first type, tubes and associated laths were joined together side by side. In the second type, single tubes bifurcated into two individual tubes. It is proposed that the first type of twinning occurred by folding of adjacent laths that remained joined together while the second type occurred due to exfoliation of a thick lath followed by folding of the exfoliated lath fragments into tubes.

Analytical electron microscopy showed that the chemical compositions of halloysite tubes, laths, and kaolinite plates were similar with the average cation exchange capacity of single tubes being small (4.5 meq/100 g) but higher than values for laths (2.8 meq/100 g) and plates (1.9 meq/100 g).

Key Words: Halloysite • Kaolinite • Mica • Microtomy • Scanning electron microscopy • Transmission electron microscopy

Clays and Clay Minerals; April 1992 v. 40; no. 2; p. 212-229; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1992.0400211
© 1992, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)