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The adsorption and retention of phosphates in soil systems is of wide environmental importance, and understanding the surface chemistry of halloysite (a common soil clay mineral) is also of prime importance in many emerging technological applications of halloysite nanotubes (HNTs). The adsorption of phosphate anions on tubular halloysite (7 Å) has been studied to gain a greater understanding of the mechanism and kinetics of adsorption on the surface of HNTs. Two well-characterized tubular halloysites with differing morphologies have been studied: one polygonal prismatic and one cylindrical, where the cylindrical form has a greater surface area and shorter tube length. Greater phosphate adsorption of up to 42 μmol g–1 is observed on the cylindrical halloysite when compared to the polygonal prismatic sample, where adsorption reached a maximum of just 15 μmol g–1 compared to a value for platy kaolinite (KGa-2) of 8 μmol g–1. Phosphate adsorption shows strong pH dependence, and the differences in phosphate sorption between the prismatic and cylindrical morphologies suggest that phosphate absorption does not occur at the same pH-dependent alumina edge sites and that the lumen may have a greater influence on uptake for the cylindrical form.
Twenty one samples of relatively pure tubular halloysites (HNTs) from localities in Australia, China, New Zealand, Scotland, Turkey and the USA have been investigated by X-ray diffraction (XRD), infrared spectroscopy (IR) and electron microscopy. The halloysites occur in cylindrical tubular forms with circular or elliptical cross sections and curved layers and also as prismatic tubular forms with polygonal cross sections and flat faces. Measurements of particle size indicate a range from 40 to 12,700 nm for tube lengths and from 20 to 600 nm for diameters. Size distributions are positively skewed with mean lengths ranging from 170 to 950 nm and mean diameters from 50 to 160 nm. Cylindrical tubes are systematically smaller than prismatic ones. Features related to order/ disorder in XRD patterns e.g. as measured by a ‘cylindrical/prismatic’ (CP) index and IR spectra as measured by an ‘OH-stretching band ratio’ are related to the proportions of cylindrical vs. prismatic tubes and correlated with other physical measurements such as specific surface area and cation exchange capacity. The relationships of size to geometric form, along with evidence for the existence of the prismatic form in the hydrated state and the same 2M1 stacking sequence irrespective of hydration state (i.e. 10 vs. 7 Å) or form, suggests that prismatic halloysites are the result of continued growth of cylindrical forms.
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