The results of a combined chemico-osmotic/diffusion experiment conducted on a geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) containing Na-bentonite illustrate the destructive role of diffusion on the ability of the GCL to act as a semipermeable membrane. The experiment is conducted by maintaining a concentration difference of 5 mM CaCl2 across the GCL specimen while preventing the flow of solution through the specimen. A time-dependent membrane efficiency is derived from measured pressure differences induced across the specimen in response to the applied concentration difference. The diffusive mass fluxes of the solutes (Cl and Ca2+) through the specimen are also measured simultaneously. An initial increase in induced pressure difference across the specimen to a peak value of 19.3 kPa is observed, followed by a gradual decrease to zero. The decrease in induced pressure difference is consistent with compression of diffuse double layers between clay particles and particle clusters due to diffusion of Ca2+, resulting in a concomitant increase in pore sizes and decrease in the observed membrane behavior. The time required for effective destruction of the initially observed semipermeable membrane behavior correlates well with the time required to achieve steady-state Ca2+ diffusion. The results have important implications for the ability of clays to sustain membrane behavior.

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