Hydrophobicity, swellability, and dispersion are important properties for organo-montmorillonites (OMnt) and have yet to be fully characterized for all OMnt configurations. The purpose of the present work was to examine the preparation of OMnt from the reaction of Ca2+–montmorillonite (Ca2+–Mnt) with a high concentration of surfactant and to reveal the relevant properties of hydrophobicity and dispersion of the resultant OMnt. A series of OMnt samples were prepared using a small amount of water and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) with a concentration more than the CTAB critical micelle concentration (CMC). The relationship between OMnt microstructure and the hydrophobicity and swellability properties was investigated in detail. The resulting OMnt samples were characterized using powder X-ray diffraction patterns (XRD), Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, thermogravimetric and differential thermogravimetry (TG-DTG), water contact angle tests, swelling indices, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The addition of CTAB and water in the OMnt preparation affected the OMnt microstructure and properties. An increase in CTAB concentration led to a more ordered arrangement of cetyltrimethylammonium (CTA+) cations in the interlayer space of the OMnt and a large amount of CTA+ cations on the outer surfaces of the OMnt. The swelling indices and the water contact angles of OMnt samples depended on the distribution of the CTAB surfactant on OMnt and the orientation of the surfactant hydrophilic groups on the inner and on the outer surfaces of OMnt. A maximum swelling index of 39 mL/g in xylene was achieved with an average water contact angle of 62.0° ± 2.0° when the amount of CTAB added was 2 times the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of Mnt and the lowest water to dry Mnt mass ratio was 3 during the preparation of OMnt samples. The platelets of OMnt aggregated together in xylene by electrostatic attraction and by hydrophobic interactions.

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