Abstract

Nontronite is a significant component of commercially important nickel laterite ores. Its behavior during high-pressure acid leaching of such ores may have an impact upon the efficiency of the process. The present study was conducted in order to further investigate the response of this material during high-pressure acid leaching. In situ synchrotron powder X-ray diffraction data were collected from a number of nontronite samples during hydration and leaching reactions at ambient and elevated temperatures. The present study followed previous high-pressure acid-leaching studies of nontronite where unexpected contraction and expansion behavior of the clay was observed by means of in situ X-ray diffraction. In the earlier studies the data sets only extended to ~20 Å so that when the nontronite expanded to greater than 19.5 Å (hydrated) the main 001 peak was only partially visible in the observed d-spacing range. The aim of the current work was to collect similar in situ diffraction data over a greater d-spacing range to observe more fully the movement of the main 001 reflection in order to better understand the changes taking place. This work was undertaken at the powder diffraction beamline of the Australian Synchrotron which was configured such that an upper d-spacing limit of ~34.5 Å could be achieved. Suggestions arising out of the previous work were confirmed along with additional information from testing of samples from the Source Clays Repository of The Clay Minerals Society. These results also show contradictory behavior of clays with the layer charge distributed over tetrahedral and octahedral sheets.

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