Structural transformations between the different hydration states of three vermiculite samples from Sta. Olalla (Huelva, Spain), Paulistana (Piaui, Brasil) and West China, have been observed by X-ray diffraction at atmospheric pressure, P = 1.4×10−2 mbar and P = 2.4×10−4 mbar. The samples were studied in flake and powder forms. The effect of vacuum has been proven to be the same as that of temperature, i.e. it causes dehydration of vermiculite, but with a different evolution through the different hydration states. In fact, under vacuum, the process seems to be inhibited at a one-water layer hydration state (1-WLHS), without a further dehydration of samples to a zero-water layer hydration state (0-WLHS).
Furthermore, the dehydration process has been shown to occur through different interstratified states in each vermiculite. This result has been related to the interlayer Mg-cation content, due to its affinity to water molecules. The interstratified states have been analysed by the direct Fourier-transform method. The vermiculite from Sta. Olalla exhibits the most complex process, with formation of three different interstratified phases: two phases characterized by an interstratification of interplanar distances, d = 11.5−13.8 Å and d = 9.6−11.5 Å, respectively, and a practically segregated phase characterized by d = 13.8 Å. For the vermiculite from China, an interstratified phase not previously reported has been found, with an interplanar distance of 12.10 Å.
The inhibition of dehydration at 1-WLHS, as observed, could be used in applications such as adsorption and separation technology of gases and liquids, or in heterogeneous catalysis processes.