Clays and Clay Minerals

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 342–360 | Cite as

The Influence of Oxalate-Promoted Growth of Saponite and Talc Crystals on Rectorite: Testing the Intercalation-Synthesis Hypothesis of 2:1 Layer Silicates

  • Dirk S. ChumannEmail author
  • Hyman Hartman
  • Dennis D. Eberl
  • S. Kelly Sears
  • Reinhard Hesse
  • Hojatollah Vali


The intercalating growth of new silicate layers or metal hydroxide layers in the interlayer space of other clay minerals is known from various mixed-layer clay minerals such as illite-smectite (I-S), chlorite-vermiculite, and mica-vermiculite. In a recent study, the present authors proposed that smectitegroup minerals can be synthesized from solution as new 2:1 silicate layers within the low-charge interlayers of rectorite. That study showed how oxalate catalyzes the crystallization of saponite from a silicate gel at low temperatures (60ºC) and ambient pressure. As an extension of this work the aim of the present study was to test the claim that new 2:1 silicate layers can be synthesized as new intercalating layers in the low-charge interlayers of rectorite and whether oxalate could promote such an intercalation synthesis. Two experiments were conducted at 60ºC and atmospheric pressure. First, disodium oxalate solution was added to a suspension of rectorite in order to investigate the effects that oxalate anions have on the structure of rectorite. In a second experiment, silicate gel of saponitic composition (calculated interlayer charge -0.33 eq/O10(OH)2) was mixed with a suspension of rectorite and incubated in disodium oxalate solution. The synthesis products were extracted after 3 months and analyzed by X-ray diffraction and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM). The treatment of ultrathin sections with octadecylammonium (nC =18) cations revealed the presence of 2:1 layer silicates with different interlayer charges that grew from the silicate gel. The oxalate-promoted nucleation of saponite and talc crystallites on the rectorite led to the alteration and ultimately to the destruction of the rectorite structure. The change was documented in HRTEM lattice-fringe images. The crystallization of new 2:1 layer silicates also occurred within the expandable interlayers of rectorite but not as new 2:1 silicate layers parallel to the previous 2:1 silicate layers. Instead, they grew independently of any orientation predetermined by the rectorite crystal substrate and their crystallization was responsible for the destruction of the rectorite structure.

Key Words

Clay Minerals High-resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (HRTEM) Intercalation Synthesis Lattice-fringe Images n-alkylammonium Cations Oxalate Rectorite Saponite Talc Smectite-group Minerals 


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© The Clay Minerals Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk S. Chumann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hyman Hartman
    • 2
  • Dennis D. Eberl
    • 3
  • S. Kelly Sears
    • 4
  • Reinhard Hesse
    • 1
  • Hojatollah Vali
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringMITCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Facility for Electron Microscopy ResearchMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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