A Coarse-Grained Interaction Model for Sodium Dominant Montmorillonite

YT Zhang and J Oestreicher and WJ Binns and S Briggs and CS Kim and LK Beland, LANGMUIR, 38, 13226-13237 (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.2c02233

Montmorillonite is the main crystalline mineral present in bentonite. It is an absorbent, swelling material; the physical chemistry underlying its ability to absorb water and swell occurs at the nanoscale, governed by electrical double-layer interactions. In turn, absorption and swelling lead to important changes in the macroscopic transport properties of the clay. Mesoscale models can help us establish a link between these nanoscale processes and macroscale properties, notably by providing a detailed description of its pore network. Models on the scale of hundreds to thousands of nanometers are required, which cannot realistically be handled using traditional all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. This work presents a coarse-grained (CG) mesoscale model of sodium montmorillonite. In our model, montmorillonite platelets are represented by two types of particles: central nonhydrogen-bonded particles and edge hydrogen-bonding particles. The particle interactions are described by two-body potentials, which were optimized based on all- atom molecular dynamics simulations. Specifically, several potential mean force calculations involving dry and hydrated montmorillonite were performed, using the ClayFF potential to calculate interatomic forces. The CG model was validated by testing the scalability of the model, testing its ability to reproduce potentials of mean force reported elsewhere in the literature, and by comparing the calculated elastic properties of a system containing 1000 Na montmorillonite platelets to experimentally measured elastic properties of bentonite. The simulated elastic properties obtained using our mesoscale model agree with these experimental values.

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