Wettability of kaolinite basal planes based on surface force measurements using atomic force microscopy
Minerals & Metallurgical Processing, 2012, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 13-19
Yin, X.; Miller, J. D.
Surface force measurements based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) are used to describe the wettability of surfaces, specifically kaolinite basal plane surfaces at a high resolution. The kaolinite particles (~500 nm) were ordered with either the silica tetrahedral face exposed or the alumina octahedral face exposed, and surface force measurements were made between a hydrophobic diamond-like-carbon (DLC) tip and the kaolinite faces at pH 4, which is around the isoelectric point of the DLC tip. Under these conditions, the effect of electrostatic interaction should be eliminated and only van der Waals interactions and hydrophobic-hydrophobic interactions are expected to contribute to the surface force. The wettabilities of the surfaces were determined from the magnitude of the surface force. Wettabilities of the kaolinite basal planes thus determined were compared with the corresponding wettabilities of talc and mica surfaces, which are well-known to be naturally hydrophobic, and hydrophilic surfaces, respectively. The results reveal that the silica tetrahedral face of kaolinte has a modest level of hydrophobicity, which may be due to the lack of hydrogen bonding sites. In contrast, the alumina octahedral face showed no hydrophobicity, since a layer of surface hydroxyl groups is present at the alumina face, resulting in a relatively strong interaction between this surface and water molecules. It is expected that, with a better understanding of the surface properties of kaolinite, further improvements in flotation separations and dewatering may be achieved.