Smectitic clays from the Sabga and Bana areas, western Cameroon were treated with sulfuric-acid solutions of various concentrations – 0.5, 0.7, 1.0 and 4.0 N – at 80°C for 2 h. The mineralogical, physicochemical and morphological characteristics of the samples treated were analysed using several techniques. The sulfuric acid caused structural modification of the dioctahedral smectite. The accessory minerals such as cristobalite, quartz, feldspars and anatase remained unaltered by the acid attack. The supernatant solutions after acid treatment contain Mg, Ca, K, Na, Si, Al and Fe as a result of partial dissolution of octahedral and tetrahedral cations. The activated clay samples exhibited a smaller cation exchange capacity (CEC) and the specific surface area (SSA) increased with increasing concentration of sulfuric acid, ranging from 65 to 134 m2/g for the sample from Bana and from 74 to 84 m2/g for the sample from Sabga. The different SSA values were affected by the relative abundance of smectite and cristobalite (SiO2/Al2O3 = 2.2 and 6.5, respectively, from Bana and Sabga). The activated clays from Bana and Sabga displayed interesting physicochemical and textural properties and can be considered as promising adsorbents for the bleaching of vegetable oils.

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