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Characterizing the surface charge of clay minerals with Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)

Department of Civil Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2104 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA

Topical Section: Materials Characterization

The engineering properties of clayey soils, including fluid permeability, erosion resistance and cohesive strength, are quite different from those of non-cohesive soils. This is mainly due to their small platy particle shape and the surrounding diffuse double layer structure. By using the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), the surface topography and the interaction force between the silicon dioxide tip and the kaolinite/montmorillonite clay minerals have been measured in the 1.0 mM NaCl solution at neutral pH. From this, the surface potential of the clay minerals is determined by mathematical regression analyses using the DLVO model. The length/thickness ratio of kaolinite and montmorillonite particles measured ranges from 8.0 to 15.0. The surface potential and surface charge density vary with particles. The average surface potential of montmorillonite is −62.8 ± 10.6 mV, and the average surface potential of kaolinite is −40.9 ± 15.5 mV. The measured results help to understand the clay sediment interaction, and will be used to develop interparticle force model to simulate sediment transport during erosion process.
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