Abstract

Study of the transformation of smectite to illite, chlorite or vermiculite via interstratified clay minerals needs precise qualitative and quantitative determinations of the different layers in the mixed-layer clays and is generally based on X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns after specific treatments of the clay samples. Saturation with K or Mg followed by ethylene glycol (EG) solvation are classical methods used to identify high-charge smectite and vermiculite. These procedures have been applied to two experimental clays, one composed of smectite layers and the second, a mixture of vermiculite and smectite layers. Different methods of glycolation (EG vapor or liquid EG) produce significant differences in the XRD patterns. Comparison with literature data indicates that K-saturated, high-charge smectite (~0.8 < total charge <1/unit-cell) and Mg-vermiculite (whatever its charge) do not expand in ethylene glycol vapor (d values ~14–15 Å). Expansion to 17 Å in liquid ethylene glycol occurs for Mg-vermiculite with a total charge of <~1.2/unit-cell and for K-saturated, high-charge smectite, when the tetrahedral charge is <~0.7/unit-cell. This study shows that: (1) glycolation procedures need to be standardized; (2) the use of saturation protocols using both liquid ethylene glycol and ethylene glycol vapor yields useful additional information about the distribution of charges in clay minerals.

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