29Si, 27Al MAS NMR is used to characterize Laponite RD and synthetic saponites of variable interlayer charge. The Si/Al ratios are in good agreement with the calculated charge from chemical analysis except for the lowest-charged saponite. In contrast to the 29Si MAS NMR spectra in which resolved signals are detected, the 27Al MAS NMR spectra show one signal whose linewidth increases with the clay charge. The water content of the clay samples was obtained from 1H MAS NMR.

The 2D MQMAS NMR technique is required to obtain a high-resolution spectrum of nuclei with strong quadrupolar interaction. This method was applied to the 23Na nucleus of clay counterions and to the 27Al structural nucleus. One well-defined 23Na NMR signal is observed for all the clays studied except the highest-charged saponite. Possible explanations for this different behaviour are discussed. The calculated isotropic chemical shift evolves progressively with the clay charge whereas the deduced quadrupolar interaction does not change significantly. The 27Al 2D 3QMAS technique was not able to resolve more than one signal.

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