Atomic Force Microscopy Study of Clay Mineral Dissolution
Bickmore, Barry Robert
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An integrated program has been developed to explore the reactivity of 2:1 phyllosilicates (biotite and the clays montmorillonite, hectorite, and nontronite) with respect to acid dissolution using in situ atomic force microscopy (AFM). Three techniques are described which make it possible to fix these minerals and other small particles to a suitable substrate for examination in the fluid cell of the atomic force microscope. A suite of macros has also been developed for the Image SXM image analysis environment which make possible the accurate and consistent measurement of the dimensions of clay particles in a series of AFM images, so that dissolution rates can be measured during a fluid cell experiment. Particles of biotite and montmorillonite were dissolved, and their dissolution rates normalized to their reactive surface area, which corresponds to the area of their edge surfaces (Ae). The Ae-normalized rates for these minerals between pH 1-2 are all ~10E-8 mol/m2*s, and compare very well to other Ae-normalized dissolution rates in the literature. Differences between the Ae-normalized rates for biotite and the BET-normalized rates (derived from solution chemical studies) found in the literature can be easily explained in terms of the proportion of edge surface area and the formation of leached layers. However, the differences between the Ae-normalized montmorillonite rates and the literature values cannot be explained the same way. Rather, it is demonstrated that rates derived from solution studies of montmorillonite dissolution have been affected by the colloidal behavior of the mineral particles. Finally, the dissolution behavior of hectorite (a trioctahedral smectite) and nontronite ( a dioctahedral smectite) were compared. Based on the differential reactivity of their crystal faces, a model of their surface atomic structures is formulated using Hartman-Perdock crystal growth theory, which explains the observed data if it is assumed that the rate-determining step of the dissolution mechanism is the breaking of connecting bonds between the octahedral and tetrahedral sheets of the mineral structure.