Geochemical studies of clay minerals III. The determination of free silica and free alumina in montmorillonites

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta



Determination of free silica by the method proposed made possible the derivation of logical formulas for several specimens of montmorillonites for which the formulas could not be derived from the analyses alone. Other montmorillonites, for which logical formulas could be derived from their analyses, were found to contain small amounts of free silica or free alumina. Others were found to contain neither free silica nor free alumina.

The method consists of the following steps: (1) digestion of 1 g of the specimen with 0.5 N NaOH solution in a covered platinum crucible or dish on a steam bath for 4 hrs, stirring the mixture at 30-min intervals, (2) filtration of the undissolved material, followed by washing several times with 1% NaOH solution, (3) neutralization of the filtrate with HCl, addition of 5 ml HCl in excess and determination of SiO and Al2O3 in the usual way and (4) calculation of the amount of free SiO2 or free Al2O3 if any and the amount of attack of the clay structure by the treatment from the ratio of SiO2 to Al2O3 dissolved and the ratio of SiO2 to Al2O3 obtained on analysis.

Tests with 5% Na2CO3 solution, the reagent formerly used for the solution of free SiO2 in rocks and minerals, showed that solution of opal by this reagent is always fractional, never complete, no matter how small the amount present or how long the period of treatment. Re-treatment of the sample results in 90–95% solution if 10 mg or less of opal is present, but for larger amounts of opal the percentage dissolved decreases as the amount present increases.

On the other hand, 75 ml of 0.5 N NaOH completely dissolves as much as 400 mg of opal in 4 hrs digestion in a covered platinum crucible or dish, on a steam bath. However, a weaker solution or a shorter period of digestion does not effect complete solution. The same amount (75 ml) of 0.5 N NaOH also dissolves 90 mg of cristobalite and 57 mg of quartz having a grain size of less than 2 microns.

Use of NaOH also permits determination of the amount of alumina dissolved, and estimation of the extent to which the clay structure was attacked by the treatment.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geochemical studies of clay minerals III. The determination of free silica and free alumina in montmorillonites
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/0016-7037(53)90003-9
Volume 3
Issue 2-3
Year Published 1953
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 12 p.
First page 143
Last page 154
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