Concentration dependent interfacial chemistry of the NaOH(aq): gibbsite interface

W Liu and M Pouvreau and AG Stack and XN Yang and AE Clark, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 24, 20998-21008 (2022).

DOI: 10.1039/d2cp01997c

Caustic conditions are often employed for dissolution of a wide variety of minerals, where ion sorption, surface diffusion, and interfacial organization impact surface reactivity. In the case of gibbsite, gamma- Al(OH)(3), the chemistry at the NaOH(aq) interface is deeply intertwined with industrial processing of aluminum, including metal production and the disposition of Al-containing wastes. To date, little is known about the structure, speciation, and dynamic behavior of gibbsite interfaces (and that of many other minerals) with NaOH(aq)-particularly as a function of ionic strength. Yet concentration-dependent interfacial organization and dynamics are a critical starting point to develop a fundamental understanding of the factors that influence dissolution. This work reports equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations of the gamma-Al(OH)(3):NaOH(aq) interface, revealing the sorption behavior and speciation of ions from 0.5-10 M NaOH. As inner-sphere complexes, Na+ primarily coordinates to the side of the gibbsite hexagonal cavities, while OH- accepts hydrogen-bonding from the surface-OH groups. The mobility of inner-sphere Na+ and OH- ions is significantly reduced due to a strong surface affinity in comparison to previous reports of NaCl, CaCl2, or BaCl2 electrolytes. At high NaOH, contact ion pairing that is observed in the bulk solution is partially disrupted upon sorption to the gibbsite surface by the individual ion-surface interactions. The molecular-scale changes to surface speciation and competition between ion-surface vs. ion-ion interactions influence surface characterization of gibbsite and potential dissolution processes, providing a valuable baseline for starting conditions needed within future reactive molecular simulations.

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