Stoichiometry of smectite dissolution reaction

Volker Metz, Keren Amram, Jiwchar Ganor

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89 Scopus citations


The dissolution stoichiometry of smectite-rich bentonites SAz-1, STx-1 and SWy-1 was studied at 50°C and pH 2 and 3 using flow-through reactors. In addition to smectite, these samples contain considerable amounts of silica phases (quartz, cristobalite and/or amorphous silica). As a result, the molar Al/Si ratios of the bulk samples are significantly lower than those of the pure smectite. Smectite dissolution was highly incongruent during the first few hundred to few thousand hours of the experiments. Release rates of Si, Mg, Ca and Na underwent a distinct transition from an initial period of rapid release to significantly lower release rate at steady state. A reversed trend was observed for release of Al, which gradually increased from very low starting release rate to higher release rate at steady state. At steady state the ratio of released Al to released Si was found to be constant and independent of the experimental conditions. We suggest that this ratio represents the Al/Si ratio of the smectite itself, and it is not influenced by the presence of accessory phases in the sample. The rapid release of calcium, sodium and magnesium from the interlayer sites is explained by ion-exchange reactions, whereas the fast release of silicon is explained by dissolution of amorphous silica. We interpret the initial slow release of Al as the result of inhibition of smectite dissolution due to coating or cementation of the smectite aggregates by amorphous silica. As the silica is dissolved, the aggregates fall apart and more smectite surfaces are exposed, resulting in an increase in the smectite dissolution rate. Thereafter, the system approaches steady state, in which the major tetrahedral and octahedral cations of smectite are released congruently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1755-1772
Number of pages18
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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