Influence of calcium and silica on hydraulic properties of sodium montmorillonite assemblages under alkaline conditions

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A sodium-washed montmorillonite was exposed to calcium and silica under alkaline conditions in order to gain insight into possible interactions of engineered clay barriers and cementitious leachates found in many waste storage facilities. The changes in physico-chemical properties of the material were investigated using a combination of dead-end filtration, electrophoresis and scanning electron microscopy. The results show minimal differentiation between unaltered Na-montmorillonite samples at the two pH values tested (9 and 12), with the structure of the resulting assemblages arising from repulsive tactoid interactions. The addition of calcium (50 mM) greatly decreases the size of the structural network, and in doing so, increases the hydraulic conductivity ~65-fold, with the effect being greatest at pH 12. Whilst the addition of silica alone (10 mM) produced little change in the hydraulic properties of montmorillonite, its combined effect with calcium produced alterations to the structural assemblages that could not be accounted for by the presence of calcium alone. The likely binding of calcium with multiple silanol groups appears to enhance the retention of water within the Na-montmorillonite assemblage, whilst still allowing the fluent passage of water. The results confirm that polyvalent cations such as Ca2+ may have a dramatic effect on the structural and hydraulic properties of montmorillonite assemblages while the effects of solutions containing both silicate and calcium are complex and influenced by silica–cation interactions. © 2010, Elsevier Ltd.
Silica, Clays, Calcium, Hydraulic conductivity, Montmorillonite, Sodium
Kinsela, A. S., Tjitradjaja, A., Collins, R. N., Waite, T. D., Payne, T. E., Macdonald, B. C. T., & White, I. (2010). Influence of calcium and silica on hydraulic properties of sodium montmorillonite assemblages under alkaline conditions. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 343(1), 366-373. doi:10.1016/j.jcis.2009.10.044