Mesoscale properties of clay aggregates from potential of mean force representation of interactions between nanoplatelets

D Ebrahimi and AJ Whittle and RJM Pellenq, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 140, 154309 (2014).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4870932

Face-to-face and edge-to-edge free energy interactions of Wyoming Na- montmorillonite platelets were studied by calculating potential of mean force along their center to center reaction coordinate using explicit solvent (i.e., water) molecular dynamics and free energy perturbation methods. Using a series of configurations, the Gay-Berne potential was parametrized and used to examine the mesoscale aggregation and properties of platelets that are initially random oriented under isothermal-isobaric conditions. Aggregates of clay were defined by geometrical analysis of face-to-face proximity of platelets with size distribution described by a log-normal function. The isotropy of the microstructure was assessed by computing a scalar order parameter. The number of platelets per aggregate and anisotropy of the microstructure both increases with platelet plan area. The system becomes more ordered and aggregate size increases with increasing pressure until maximum ordered state at confining pressure of 50 atm. Further increase of pressure slides platelets relative to each other leading to smaller aggregate size. The results show aggregate size of (3-8) platelets for sodium-smectite in agreement with experiments (3-10). The geometrical arrangement of aggregates affects mechanical properties of the system. The elastic properties of the meso-scale aggregate assembly are reported and compared with nanoindentation experiments. It is found that the elastic properties at this scale are close to the cubic systems. The elastic stiffness and anisotropy of the assembly increases with the size of the platelets and the level of external pressure. (C) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.

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