Reactivity, swelling and aggregation of mixed-size silicate nanoplatelets
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Montmorillonite is a key ingredient in a number of technical applications. However, little is known regarding the microstructure and the forces between silicate platelets. The size of montmorillonite platelets from different natural sources can vary significantly. This has an influence on their swelling behavior in water as well as in salt solutions, particularly when tactoid formation occurs, that is when divalent counterions are present in the system. A tactoid consists of a limited number of platelets aggregated in a parallel arrangement with a constant separation. The tactoid size increases with platelet size and with very small nanoplatelets, similar to 30 nm, no tactoids are observed irrespectively of the platelet origin and concentration of divalent ions. The formation and dissociation of tactoids seem to be reversible processes. A large proportion of small nanoplatelets in a mixed-size system affects the tactoid formation, reduces the aggregation number and increases the extra-lamellar swelling in the system.