When clay minerals, notably smectites, intercalate organic cations, their interlayer surfaces change from hydrophilic to hydrophobic. The resultant intercalates, known as organo-clays (OCs), have a large affinity for hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs). Organo-clays are used as sorbents of HOCs in wastewater treatment and as sorptive barriers in landfill liners. The structural and sorptive characteristics of OCs with respect to HOCs have been studied extensively, and a large volume of literature has accumulated over the past few decades. The interactions of OCs with HOCs and the various approaches to improving the sorption capacity of OCs are reviewed here, with particular reference to the application of novel analytical techniques, such as molecular modeling, to characterizing the OC–HOC interaction.

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