Organo-clays are of interest in the modification of anion transport properties in engineered barriers. In the present study, surface charge and wettability were assessed for tracking changes in the effective diffusion coefficient (Deff) by the formation or suppression of bound H2O layers on the external surfaces of clays. Bentonite samples modified with three different organic cations in amounts of 0 to 400% of the cation exchange capacity were used. Diffusive transport was determined in H2O→D2O exchange experiments in a newly constructed cell adapted to the attenuated total reflectance (ATR) accessory of a Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer at two different dry bulk densities and various degrees of water saturation.
All organo-clay combinations showed changes in surface charge after the addition of organic cations, from a negative value of 99 mmolc/kg for the original bentonite to a maximum positive value of 230.5 mmolc/kg for hexadecylpyridinium (HDPy)-montmorillonite. The positive charge resulted from adsorption of the organic cation in excess of the CEC. Hydrophobic surface properties with contact angles >90° were obtained for HDPy-montmorillonite samples with monolayers of organic cations on the external surfaces only. Here, where hydrophobicity suppressed the formation of bound H2O layers, the largest Deff of 2.7×10−10 m2/s was observed in the high dry bulk density range (1.0–1.5 g/cm3) under water-saturated conditions. In the low dry bulk density range (0.6–0.9 g/cm3) this effect was weakened significantly because, with increasing pore size, the effect of bound H2O layers was reduced. In the high dry bulk density range at partial water saturation (40%), diffusive transport was hindered by the small water volume. Previous work found that, in the high dry bulk density range and water-saturated state, Deff was 2.4×10−11 m2/s for the original bentonite. Deff for all hydrophilic organo-clay samples was ≤2.1×10−11 m2/s, somewhat less than for the hydrophobic sample. In hydrophilic organo-clay samples, retardation factors that retard the value for Deff, up to a magnitude of 0.5, include an increase in dry bulk density and a decrease in water saturation. In the water-saturated state at high dry bulk densities, hydrophobic surface properties suppressing the formation of bound H2O layers can increase Deff by one order of magnitude.