The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


Flocculation and particle size analysis of expansive clay sediments affected by biological, chemical, and hydrodynamic factors

TitleFlocculation and particle size analysis of expansive clay sediments affected by biological, chemical, and hydrodynamic factors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsTan X, Hu L, Reed AH, Furukawa Y, Zhang G
JournalOcean Dynamics
Start Page143
Date Published01/2014
KeywordsExtracellular polymeric substances Expansive clays Flocculation Hydrodynamics Particle size Salinity

Expansive clay sediments are abundant in riverine and estuarine waters and bottom beds, and their particle size distributions (PSD) are important for the analysis of sediment transport. This paper presents an experimental study to evaluate, using a laser particle size analyzer under varying flow conditions, the intrinsic PSD of two expansive clays, a Ca- and a Na-montmorillonite and the influence of biological, chemical, and hydrodynamic factors on their flocculation and PSD. The considered biological factor consists of three extracellular polymeric substances of varying polarity, including xanthan gum, guar gum, and chitosan; the chemical factor is the salinity; and the hydrodynamic factor is the types of flow indicated by the Reynolds number and shear rate. The intrinsic PSD of both clays show a multimodal lognormal distribution with sizes ranging from 0.2 to 50 μm. All three biopolymers, xanthan gum, guar gum, and chitosan, can facilitate flocculation through long-range polymer bridging and short-range ion-dipole interaction, hydrogen bonding, and Coulomb force. The influence of salinity is different for the two clays: the particle size of the Na-montmorillonite increases with salinity, which is caused by flocculation resulting from the suppressed electrical double layer, while that of the Ca-montmorillonite is slightly reduced owing to the decreased basal spacing and cation exchange. For different hydrodynamic conditions, higher shear rate promotes the flocculation of Ca-montmorillonite, but breaks the Na-montmorillonite flocs. The significance of understanding the flocculation and PSD of expansive clays is also discussed in terms of sediment transport under different aquatic environments.