Nucleation of Salt Crystals in Clay Minerals: Molecular Dynamics Simulation

H Dashtian and HM Wang and M Sahimi, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS, 8, 3166-3172 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.7b01306

Nucleation of salt crystals in confined media occurs in many processes of high importance, such as injection of CO2 in geological formations for its sequestration. In particular, salt precipitation in clays, a main component of sedimentary rock, is an important phenomenon. The crystals precipitate on the pores' surface, modify the pore space morphology, and reduce its flow and transport properties. Despite numerous efforts to understand the mechanisms of nucleation of salt crystals in confined media, the effect of the clay's chemistry on the growth, distribution, and properties of the crystals is not well understood. We report the results of extensive molecular dynamics simulation of nucleation and growth of NaCl crystals in a clay pore using molecular models of two types of clay minerals, Na-montmorillonite and kaolinite. Clear evidence is presented for the nucleation of the salt crystals that indicates that the molecular structure of clay minerals affects their spatial distribution, although the nucleation mechanism is the same in both types of clays.

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