An O2 oxidation and freeze-dry procedure has been used to synthesize birnessite through the oxidation of Mn2+ in alkali media. The effects of O2 flow rate, the fluxion velocity of reaction suspension, the reaction temperature, pretreatment the reaction solutions with N2, and the hydration conditions on the purity of birnessite, the crystallinity, the ion-exchange properties, and the phase transformation of intermediate phases were examined. Buserite with a 1 nm basal spacing, produced after the oxidation, is transformed to 0.7 nm Na birnessite by complete freeze drying. Increasing the fluxion velocity of the reaction suspension and the O2 flow rate facilitated oxidation of Mn(OH)2. Prephase I (a phase related to hausmannite, γ-Mn3O4 (Luo and Suib, 1997; Luo et al., 1998), and feitknechtite (β-MnOOH) were formed as intermediates during the synthesis. Mechanical stirring was used to change the fluxion velocity of the reactive suspension. When the speed of stirring and the O2 flow rate were raised to 250 rpm and 3.0 L/min, respectively, or 450 rpm and 2.0 L/min, respectively, birnessite was the only phase in the final product. Irrespective of temperature in other reactions, pure birnessite was synthesized as long as the temperature during the initial mixing of the reaction solutions was maintained below 10°C. Increasing the reaction temperature led to a larger crystal size, better crystallinity and lower surface area. The pretreatment of solutions with N2 or O2 had little effect on the synthesis; synthesized birnessites had the same purity (100%) as, and similar crystallinity to, that of the no-pretreatment control. Dehydration of the buserite by freeze drying and heating at 60°C did not affect the production of birnessite; however, the latter caused partial loss of ion-exchange capacity with Mg2+. The pathways of the birnessite formation in this study might be:

(1) Mn(OH)2 (amorphous) → feitknechtite → buserite → birnessite, and

(2) Mn(OH)2 (amorphous) → prephase I → feitknechtite → buserite → birnessite

Mn(OH)2 existed in an X-ray amorphous state, not in the form of ‘pyrochroite’, during the synthesis.

The adopted conditions for synthesis of pure birnessite were NaOH to Mn molar ratio of 13.7, O2 flow rate of 2 L/min and oxidation for 5 h during vigorous stirring at 450 rpm at room temperature. The birnessite synthesized had a hexagonal platy morphology with good crystallinity, an average composition of Na0.25MnO2.07·0.66H2O, and a surface area of 38 m2/g.

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