Abstract

The present study investigated the anisotropy in the orientation of particles in synthetic swelling clay media prepared from the sedimentation of particle-sized fractions of vermiculite. The different size fractions (<0.1, 0.1–0.2, 1–2, and 10–20 μm) were chosen because they represent the wide range of particle sizes of swelling clay minerals encountered in natural environments. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and neutron diffraction measurements allowed the characteristic scattering/diffraction features to be derived and the quantitative information about the particle orientation distributions along two directions with respect to the sedimentation plane to be extracted. The results obtained confirmed that the increase in particle size was associated with the development of a random orientation for the particles, whereas the hydration state had a negligible impact on the organization of the porous media. For finer vermiculite particles, the rocking curves demonstrated an anisotropy of the systems that is similar to those reported previously on natural montmorillonite minerals. This result suggests that the location of the layer charge has little or no impact on the anisotropy features of particle orientation. For the coarsest fraction (10–20 μm), quantitative information about the particle orientation revealed that the relative proportion of the isotropic contribution represents up to 85% of the material. The anisotropy in the 2D SANS patterns revealed a pore-network anisotropy that was consistent with the particle size.

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