Adsorption of the polycation chitosan on montmorillonite was studied at different pH values from 4.5 to 6.5 and at temperatures of 25, 50 and 75°C. The amount of chitosan adsorbed increased with temperature, indicating that temperature is a decisive factor. At pH 5.0 and 25°C the amount adsorbed was 1.18 molc kg−1, whereas it was 1.5 times higher (1.79 molc kg−1) at 75°C. The uptake of chitosan increased significantly at higher pH. This can be attributed to the decrease in the degree of protonation. Surface charge and X-ray diffraction measurements indicate that most of the chitosan is adsorbed in the interlayer, where mono- and bilayer structures are formed.

The kinetics of chitosan adsorption also depend on temperature and pH. At ⩽50°C, the adsorption mechanism of chitosan on montmorillonite is closest to the intraparticle diffusion model, whereas at lower temperature (25°C) the adsorption process is closer to the pseudo-second order model. The pH of the solution affects the protonation degree of chitosan and the mode of adsorption on montmorillonite, but not the adsorption rate.

For chitosan-montmorillonite prepared at pH 5.0 and 75°C, the effective anion exchange capacity (AEC) was found to be 80% (0.36 molc kg−1) of the calculated value. The relatively large AEC and the location of most of the anion exchange sites in the interlayer make chitosan-montmorillonite an interesting prospect as an adsorbent for water-purification procedures.

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