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Adsorption isotherms of a non-ionic surfactant (Triton X-100) and a quaternary cationic surfactant (Sanisol TPR) by aqueous dispersions of sepiolite gels have been measured at 25°C. The adsorption mechanisms of these two surfactants were different. Triton X-100 was adsorbed by hydrophyllic interaction, whereas the cationic surfactant was adsorbed in two stages. The first stage, to about 10 meq/ 100 g in the adsorption isotherm, involved cation exchange, as shown by a correlation between the amount of Mg extracted and the amount of adsorbed surfactant. The mechanism of adsorption in the second stage is not clear and was more complicated than that for smectite-quaternary systems.

The Brookfield viscosity and sediment volume of surface-modified sepiolite dispersions were found to depend on the nature and the amount of adsorbed surfactants and on the chemical nature of the solvent. Stable and highly viscous suspensions of Sanisol-modified sepiolite were obtained in organic solvents of low polarity (e.g., xylene), whereas Triton-modified sepiolite suspensions of high viscosity were obtained in polar organic solvents, such as triethanol amine.

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