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    Montmorillonite

    Montmorillonite is a very soft phyllosilicate group of minerals that typically form as microscopic crystals, known as clay.
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    Montmorillonite is a very soft phyllosilicate group of minerals that typically form as microscopic crystals, known as clay. It is named after Montmorillon in France. Montmorillonite, a member of the smectite group, is a 2:1 clay, meaning that it has two tetrahedral sheets of silica sandwiching a central octahedral sheet of alumina. The particles are plate-shaped with an average diameter around 1 μm and a thickness of 9.6X109 m. Members of this group include saponite.

    Montmorillonite is a subclass of smectite, a 2:1 phyllosilicate mineral characterized as having greater than 50% octahedral charge; its cation exchange capacity is due to isomorphous substitution of Mg for Al in the central alumina plane. The substitution of lower valence cations in such instances leaves the nearby oxygen atoms with a net negative charge that can attract cations. In contrast, beidellite is smectite with greater than 50% tetrahedral charge originating from isomorphous substitution of Al for Si in the silica sheet.

    Uses
    Montmorillonite is used in the oil-drilling industry as a component of drilling mud, making the mud slurry viscous, which helps in keeping the drill bit cool and removing drilled solids. It is also used as a soil additive to hold soil water in drought-prone soils, used in the construction of earthen dams and levees, and to prevent the leakage of fluids. It is also used as a component of foundry sand and as a desiccant to remove moisture from air and gases.

    Montmorillonite clays have been extensively used in catalytic processes. Cracking catalysts have used montmorillonite clays for over 60 years. Other acid-based catalysts use acid-treated montmorillonite clays.
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