Molecular dynamics simulation in the interlayer of mixed-layer clays due to hydration and swelling mechanism


Construction Management

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The swelling behavior of clay minerals is widely known for its importance in soil and environmental sciences and its detrimental effects in engineering fields. Although more than 70 percent of all clays are of mixed-layer types, the vast majority of the previous experiments and simulations are focused on pure clays, which cause the swelling mechanism of the widespread mixed-layer clay (MLC) and its role in soils are little understood, especially the most common illite-montmorillonite (I-M) mixed-layer clay (MLC). This paper reports on a molecular dynamics (MD) study of the differences in swelling behavior between I-M MLCs containing K+ and Na+ and Na-montmorillonite (MMT). It captures the evolution of quantitative properties such as basal spacing d, interaction energy, and many hydrogen bonds in the clay interlayer, increasing hydration for the first time through the scripts. It is found that MLCs have smaller swellings than Na-MMT due to the asymmetric interlayer charges and mixed counterions in the I-M interlayer. However, in terms of the interaction energy for the in-depth reason of swelling, it is found that the clay-clay interaction energy and the clay-ion interaction energy drop, while the clay-water interaction energy increases with increasing hydration. In addition, the attractive interaction of clay-bound water seriously promotes swelling, and it is mainly composed of Coulomb interaction and Van der Waals interaction. The higher the K+ concentration, the more noticeable these phenomena are. Besides, it is also reported that the number and distribution mechanism of hydrogen bonds in MLCs are very different from that of pure clay. This work provides insight into the molecular mechanism for initial swelling and clay-bound water interaction in widespread MLCs. This will help to decipher its specific role in soils and minimize clay swelling.

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