Abstract

Most of the world’s sepiolite-palygorskite precipitates in lacustrine and perimarine environments. Although these minerals can transform from precursor minerals, the most common formation mechanism involves crystallization from solution. In this study, equilibrium activity diagrams are calculated for sepiolite-palygorskite in the seven component system MgO-CaO-Al2O3-SiO2-H2O-CO2-HCl, employing available thermodynamic data for related minerals, aqueous species and water. Stability fields are illustrated graphically on plots of log [aMg2+/(aH+)2] vs. log[aH4SiO4o], using the activities for log[aAl3+/(aH+)3] defined by an arbitrarily chosen value and the approximate saturation limits of pyrophyllite + amorphous silica, kaolinite + amorphous silica, kaolinite + pyrophyllite, pyrophyllite + quartz and gibbsite. The formation of sepiolite-palygorskite from solution is more favored in the presence of amorphous silica than quartz. Lower aqueous aluminum activities favor the non-aluminum phases sepiolite and kerolite relative to the aluminum-containing phases palygorskite and saponite. The stability ranges of worldwide associations of magnesite and dolomite with sepiolite and palygorskite are also illustrated as a function of aluminum activity.

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