Determination of layer charge density in expandable phyllosilicates with alkylammonium ions: A combined experimental and theoretical assessment of the method

B Lanson and P Mignon and M Velde and A Bauer and M Lanson and N Findling and CP del Valle, APPLIED CLAY SCIENCE, 229, 106665 (2022).

DOI: 10.1016/j.clay.2022.106665

Layer charge deficit is a key crystal-chemical parameter for the classification and nomenclature of 2:1 phyllo-silicates that also controls some of their fundamental properties such as cation exchange capacity, expandability, water content, or rheology. The clay community has thus devoted significant efforts to determine this parameter either from the smectite/vermiculite chemical composition (the structural formula method) or experimentally using the alkylammonium method, that theoretically allows the determination of the mean layer charge density and of its distribution. In the present study density functional theory (DFT) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are compared to experimental X-ray diffraction data for a series of synthetic saponites with layer charge ranging from medium-charge smectite to medium-charge vermiculite. Consistency of computed and measured layer-to-layer distances confirms the ability of computational approaches to accurately predict the organization of alkylammonium cations in smectite interlayers. Thermalization of DFT-optimized structure models through MD simulations allows probing possible alternative interlayer configurations such as the electrostatically-favored location of ammonium heads above/below Al-substituted tetrahedra. X-ray diffraction results showed that layer-to-layer distances intermediate between those corresponding to the stable h1, h2, etc. interlayer configurations described in the literature result from the interstratification of different stable con-figurations. The overall consistency of computational and experimental results confirms also the ability of the alkylammonium method to accurately determine a mean value of layer charge density consistent with smectite structural formula when using the revised equations proposed by Laird et al. (1989). The validity of the method appears however limited to smectite-group minerals layer charge density ranging from similar to 0.5 to <= 1.2 per O-20(OH)(4) most likely owing to the coexistence of both stable "layered " and paraffin-like interlayer configura-tions for higher values of layer charge. In addition, this consistency challenges the ability of the method to quantitatively describe distributions of layer charge in expandable phyllosilicates even when using the complete series of alkylammonium cations.

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