Abstract

Sepiolite is a hydrated magnesium silicate with a microporous and mesoporous structure. The fibrous morphology and the alternating blocks and tunnels along the fiber direction of sepiolite make it an ideal material to sequester a variety of organic and inorganic contaminants. The adsorption of various surfactants by organo sepiolites have been experimentally investigated. How this hydrophobic material adsorbs dye molecules at the atomic level, however, is a great mystery. For this reason, the present study focused on the adsorption of acid azo 57 dye molecules to modified sepiolite. For this purpose, the amenability of sepiolite to remove the anionic textile dye (acid azo red dye 57) was first studied in detail. Additionally, a typical cationic surfactant, hexadecyltrimethylammonium Br (HTAB), was used to modify sepiolite to increase the adsorption capacity. Zeta potential measurements on the sepiolite and the HTAB modified sepiolite were also carried out. Moreover, Density Functional Theory (DFT) studies were performed to understand the mechanism of the adsorption of dye molecules to natural and modified sepiolite surfaces. On the basis of the experimental studies, three general systems were theoretically examined: (i) HTAB molecules on sepiolite basal surfaces to represent four Si tetrahedra, (ii) neutral or charged acid azo red dye 57 molecules on sepiolite basal surfaces to represent four Si tetrahedra, and (iii) HTAB on the surface of neutral or charged acid azo red dye 57 molecules as a substrate. The results clearly indicated good agreement between the experimental studies and the theoretical computational DFT studies. For example, the double layer structure found in experimental studies was also demonstrated in DFT studies and confirmed increased adsorption in the presence of acid azo dye 57.

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