Bacteria play an important role in determining the properties and behavior of clay minerals in natural environments and such interactions have great potential for creating stable biofilms and carbon storage sites in soils, but our knowledge of these interactions are far from complete. The purpose of this study was to understand better the effects of bacteria-generated biofilms on clay interlayer expansion. Mixtures of a colloidal, 2-water hectorite clay and Pseudomonas syringae in a minimal media suspension evolve into a polysaccharide-rich biofilm aggregate in time-series experiments lasting up to 1 week. X-ray diffraction analysis reveals that upon aggregation, the clay undergoes an initial interlayer contraction. Short-duration experiments, up to 72 h, result in a decrease in the d001 value from 1.50 to 1.26 nm. The initial interlayer contraction is followed in long-duration (up to 1 week) experiments by an expansion of the d001 value of 1.84 nm. The expansion is probably a result of large, biofilm-produced, polymeric molecules being emplaced in the interlayer site. The resultant organo-clay could provide a possible storage medium for carbon in a microbial colony setting.

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