Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 143–157 | Cite as

Flocculation and particle size analysis of expansive clay sediments affected by biological, chemical, and hydrodynamic factors

  • Xiaoling Tan
  • Liming Hu
  • Allen H. Reed
  • Yoko Furukawa
  • Guoping ZhangEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on the 11th International Conference on Cohesive Sediment Transport


Expansive clay sediments are abundant in riverine and estuarine waters and bottom beds, and their particle size distributions (PSD) are important for the analysis of sediment transport. This paper presents an experimental study to evaluate, using a laser particle size analyzer under varying flow conditions, the intrinsic PSD of two expansive clays, a Ca- and a Na-montmorillonite and the influence of biological, chemical, and hydrodynamic factors on their flocculation and PSD. The considered biological factor consists of three extracellular polymeric substances of varying polarity, including xanthan gum, guar gum, and chitosan; the chemical factor is the salinity; and the hydrodynamic factor is the types of flow indicated by the Reynolds number and shear rate. The intrinsic PSD of both clays show a multimodal lognormal distribution with sizes ranging from 0.2 to 50 μm. All three biopolymers, xanthan gum, guar gum, and chitosan, can facilitate flocculation through long-range polymer bridging and short-range ion-dipole interaction, hydrogen bonding, and Coulomb force. The influence of salinity is different for the two clays: the particle size of the Na-montmorillonite increases with salinity, which is caused by flocculation resulting from the suppressed electrical double layer, while that of the Ca-montmorillonite is slightly reduced owing to the decreased basal spacing and cation exchange. For different hydrodynamic conditions, higher shear rate promotes the flocculation of Ca-montmorillonite, but breaks the Na-montmorillonite flocs. The significance of understanding the flocculation and PSD of expansive clays is also discussed in terms of sediment transport under different aquatic environments.


Extracellular polymeric substances Expansive clays Flocculation Hydrodynamics Particle size Salinity 



This work was partially supported by the Office of Naval Research (award no. N00173-10-1-G013) under program element number 0601153N. GZ was partially supported by the Overseas Collaboration Award of NSFC (grant no. 51128901). XT received the LSU Graduate School Economic Development Assistantship and a Supplement Award. The facilities used in this study were purchased using the fund from the Louisiana Board of Regents Enhancement Program.



Internal diameter of pipe


Mean diameter of all flocs and particles within a given size range


Impeller diameter


Permittivity of vacuum


Dielectric constant

\( \overline{\varepsilon} \)

Average turbulent energy dissipation per unit time and mass


Friction factor


Average shear rate


Boltzmann constant


Diameter of a particle or floc


Number of particles at a fixed size


Mean concentration of the jth ion species


Power number of stirrer


Angular velocity of impeller in the stirring bath of PSA


Fluid density


Valence of the jth ion species


Flow rate in pipe


Internal radius of pipe


Reynolds number


Debye length


Absolute temperature


Fluid dynamic viscosity


Mean flow velocity in pipe


Kinematic viscosity of the liquid


Volume of the stirring bath of PSA


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoling Tan
    • 1
  • Liming Hu
    • 2
  • Allen H. Reed
    • 3
  • Yoko Furukawa
    • 3
  • Guoping Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Hydro-Science & Engineering, Department of Hydraulic EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Naval Research LaboratoryStennis Space CenterUSA

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