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What is Bentonite?

10/8/2012 12:58:01 PM | by Anonymous


Mainly made up of a mineral group called montmorillonite, bentonite is a geological clay material and it is usually created due to volcanic ash being disintegrated by water. Some other minerals that may be found inside bentonite include aluminum, calcium, potassium and sodium, amongst which calcium and sodium are the two most common variants of bentonite. The variant in a bentonite can be dictated by the predominance of the mineral named before bentonite, so for example sodium bentonite would suggest that it is a sodium variant of bentonite. Bentonite has several uses, which has earned the mineral the nickname ‘the clay of 1,000 uses’. Sodium bentonite tends to have a significant characteristic, that being able to expand when water is added to it. Although other bentonite clays may also posses this quality, it is most prominent in sodium bentonite. Such is due to the way the particles in the clay are shaped; in the shape of plates which makes room for a larger surface area, allowing for water to interact with a greater surface area and then being able to exchange ions with the clay particles, causing the clay to expand in size.


Geologists suggest that the formation of bentonite can be traced back to 70 million years ago. With such, it means that several layers of bentonite clay have settled in the lower layers of the planet’s soil, requiring mining in order to be extracted. Also, even if the clay contains 30 percent moisture, it would still be present in solid form, making extraction easier. However one drawback of extracted bentonite is that it usually contains certain impurities such as quartz and gypsum, requiring further processing, filtering and purifying before the material can be used for other purposes. Also the bentonite is usually combined with soda ash for it to be reactivated after extraction and be used.


Sodium bentonite

As mentioned earlier sodium bentonite has the ability to expand when water is introduced to it. It is able to absorb several times as much as its dry mass, making it ideal for several applications. An example of such can be the fact that based on the mineral’s colloidal properties; it is often used in drilling mud in oil rigs or gas wells. Also, the ability of being able to absorb water makes sodium bentonite an excellent sealant; which means that it is able to provide a low permeable barrier. Therefore, this mineral is often used in operations where there would be a risk of contaminating ground water. By using sodium bentonite, metal pollutants are quarantined. In a similar application, the mineral is also used to seal the subsurface of disposal systems in applications where there could be a risk of a harmful leak. The mineral can also be modified by adding other substances to be able to support more complex applications.


The clay also has applications in the pet industry, mostly in the littler boxes of pets. As the clay has the ability to absorb moisture, it is able to absorb the moisture in the waste of pets, forming the waste in clumps and making disposal of the waste easier. Also, the clay is even used in the making of fabric softener and in soaps and detergents as it is able to bind with dirt. The binding ability of bentonite has found it several uses in many industries worldwide. It is even used in the medical industry based on its ability to bind with dirt. Due to this quality, it is often used for aiding detoxification and indigestion; in such that it attaches itself to internal toxins and carries them out of the system. It also aids the clearing up of oil spills, wastewater filtration and also purifying wines and vinegars.

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