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Copper Sorption Mechanisms on Smectites

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Due to the importance of clay minerals in metal sorption, many studies have attempted to derive mechanistic models that describe adsorption processes. These models often include several different types of adsorption sites, including permanent charge sites and silanol and aluminol functional groups on the edges of clay minerals. To provide a basis for development of adsorption models it is critical that molecular-level studies be done to characterize sorption processes. In this study we conducted X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopic experiments on copper (II) sorbed on smectite clays using suspension pH and ionic strength as variables. At low ionic strength, results suggest that Cu is sorbing in the interlayers and maintains its hydration sphere. At high ionic strength, Cu atoms are excluded from the interlayer and sorb primarily on the silanol and aluminol functional groups of the montmorillonite or beidellite structures. Interpretation of the XAFS and EPR spectroscopy results provides evidence that multinuclear complexes are forming. Fitting of extended X-ray absorption fine structure spectra revealed that the Cu-Cu atoms in the multinuclear complexes are 2.65 A˚ apart, and have coordination numbers near one. This structural information suggests that small Cu dimers are sorbing on the surface. These complexes are consistent with observed sorption on mica and amorphous silicon dioxide, yet are inconsistent with previous spectroscopic results for Cu sorption on montmorillonite. The results reported in this paper provide mechanistic data that will be valuable for modeling surface interactions of Cu with clay minerals, and predicting the geochemical cycling of Cu in the environment.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-06-01

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  • The JOURNAL publishes articles of interest to the international community of clay scientists, including but not limited to areas in mineralogy, crystallography, geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, soil science, agronomy, physical chemistry, colloid chemistry, ceramics, petroleum engineering, foundry engineering, and soil mechanics. Clays and Clay Minerals exists to disseminate to its worldwide readership the most recent developments in all of these aspects of clay materials. Manuscripts are welcome from all countries.

    Clays and Clay Minerals is the official publication of The Clay Minerals Society.

    The Editor-in-Chief is Professor Joseph W. Stucki

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