The physicochemical properties of clays can be modified by acid treatment with inorganic acids. This treatment is usually referred to as ‘acid activation’, because it increases the specific surface area and the number of active sites of the solids. In the present study, the acid activation of saponite from Cerro del Aguila (Madrid, Spain) with HCl solutions was measured. Illite, quartz and small amounts of feldspar were found as impurities in the raw saponite.
Acid treatments were carried out with different concentrations of HCl solutions. The samples obtained were characterized by mineralogical and chemical analyses, XRD, FT-IR spectroscopy, N2 adsorption-desorption isotherms and TEM. The acid attack, under the conditions employed, produced a progressive destruction of the structure of saponite by partial dissolution of the octahedral Mg(II) cations. Amorphous silica coming from the tetrahedral sheet of saponite was generated. The specific surface area of the most intensely treated sample (2.5% for 24 h) was doubled with respect to that of natural saponite. This increase in the surface area is due to the increase in both the external and internal surface areas.