Water–montmorillonite systems: Neutron scattering and tracer throughdiffusion studies

Bestel, Martina (2014). Water–montmorillonite systems: Neutron scattering and tracer throughdiffusion studies. (Dissertation, Universität Bern, Philosophisch-naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)

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Designs for deep geological respositories of nuclear waste include bentonite as a
hydraulic and chemisorption buffer material to protect the biosphere from leakage of radionuclides. Bentonite is chosen because it is a cheap, naturally occurring material with the required properties. It consists essentially of montmorillonite, a swelling clay mineral. Upon contact with groundwater such clays can seal the repository by incorporating water in the interlayers of their crystalline structure. The intercalated water exhibits significantly different properties to bulk water in the surrounding interparticle pores, such as lower diffusion coefficients (González Sánchez et. al. 2008). This doctoral thesis presents water distribution and diffusion behavior on various time and space scales in montmorillonite. Experimental results are presented for Na- and Cs-montmorillonite samples with a range of bulk dry densities (0.8 to 1.7 g/cm3). The experimental methods employed were neutron scattering (backscattering, diffraction, time-of-flight), adsorption measurements (water, nitrogen) and tracer-through diffusion. For the tracer experiments the samples were fully saturated via the liquid phase under volume-constrained conditions. In contrast, for the neutron scattering experiments, the samples were hydrated via the vapor phase and subsequently compacted, leaving a significant fraction of interparticle pores unfilled with water. Owing to these differences in saturation, the water contents of the samples for neutron scattering were characterized by gravimetry whereas those for the tracer experiments were obtained from the bulk dry density. The amount of surface water in interlayer pores could be successfully discriminated
from the amount of bulk-like water in interparticle pores in Na- and Csmontmorillonite
using neutron spectroscopy. For the first time in the literature, the distribution
of water between these two pore environments was deciphered as a function of
gravimetric water content. The amount was compared to a geometrical estimation of the amount of interlayer and interparticle water determined by neutron diffraction and adsorption measurements. The relative abundances of the 1 to 4 molecular water layers in the interlayer were determined from the area ratios of the (001)-diffraction peaks. Depending on the characterization method, different fractions of surface water
and interlayer water were obtained. Only surface and interlayer water exists in amontmorillonite with water contents up to 0.18 g/g according to spectroscopic measurements and up to 0.32 g/g according to geometrical estimations, respectively. At higher water contents, bulk-like and interparticle water also exists. The amounts increase monotonically, but not linearly, from zero to 0.33 g/g for bulk-like water and to 0.43 g/g for interparticle water. It was found that water most likely redistributes between the surface and interlayer sites during the spectroscopic measurements and therefore the reported fraction is relevant only below about -10 ºC (Anderson, 1967). The redistribution effect can explain the discrepancy in fractions between the methods.
In a novel approach the fractions of water in different pore environments were
treated as a fixed parameter to derive local diffusion coefficients for water from quasielastic neutron scattering data, in particular for samples with high water contents. Local diffusion coefficients were obtained for the 1 to 4 molecular water layers in the interlayer of 0.5·10–9, 0.9·10–9, 1.5·10–9 and 1.4·10–9 m²/s, respectively, taking account of the different water fractions (molecular water layer, bulk-like water). The diffusive transport of 22Na and HTO through Na-montmorillonite was measured on the laboratory experimental scale (i.e. cm, days) by tracer through-diffusion experiments. We confirmed that diffusion of HTO is independent of the ionic strength of the external solution in contact with the clay sample but dependent on the bulk dry density. In contrast, the diffusion of 22Na was found to depend on both the ionic strength of the pore solution and on the bulk dry density. The ratio of the pore and surface diffusion could be experimentally determined for 22Na from the dependence of the diffusion coefficient on the ionic strength. Activation energies were derived from the temperaturedependent diffusion coefficients via the Arrhenius relation. In samples with high bulk dry density the activation energies are slightly higher than those of bulk water whereas in low density samples they are lower. The activation energies as a function of ionic strengths of the pore solutions are similar for 22Na and HTO. The facts that (i) the slope of the logarithmic effective diffusion coefficients as a function of the logarithmic ionic strength is less than unity for low bulk dry densities and (ii) two water populations can be observed for high gravimetric water contents (low bulk dry densities) support the interlayer and interparticle porosity model proposed by Glaus et al. (2007), Bourg et al. (2006, 2007) and Gimmi and Kosakowski (2011).

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Diamond, Larryn William and Gimmi, Thomas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Ruth Bucheli

Date Deposited:

06 Oct 2014 14:37

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2020 02:24



Additional Information:

e-Dissertation (edbe)





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