Environmental science & technology

Molecular dynamics simulation of secondary sorption behavior of montmorillonite modified by single chain quaternary ammonium cations.

PMID 22364194


Organoclays synthesized from single chain quaternary ammonium cations (QAC) ((CH(3))(3)NR(+)) exhibit different mechanisms for the sorption of nonpolar organic compounds as the length of the carbon chain is increased. The interaction between a nonpolar sorbate and an organoclay intercalated with small QACs has been demonstrated to be surface adsorption, while partitioning is the dominant mechanism in clays intercalated with long chain surfactants. This study presents the results of a molecular dynamics (MD) simulation performed to examine the sorption mechanisms of benzene in the interlayer of three organoclays with chain lengths ranging from 1 to 16 carbons: tetramethylammonium (TMA) clay; decyltrimethylammonium (DTMA) clay; and hexadecyltrimethylammonium (HDTMA) clay. The basis of the overall simulation was a combined force field of ClayFF and CVFF. In the simulations, organic cations were intercalated and benzene molecules were introduced to the interlayer, followed by whole system NPT and NVT time integration. Trajectories of all the species were recorded after the system reached equilibrium and subsequently analyzed. Simulation results confirmed that the arrangement of the surfactants controlled the sorption mechanism of organoclays. Benzene molecules were observed to interact directly with the clay surface in the presence of TMA cations, but tended to interact with the aliphatic chain of the HDTMA cation in the interlayer. The simulation provided insight into the nature of the adsorption/partitioning mechanisms in organoclays, and explained experimental observations of decreased versus increased uptake capacities as a function of increasing total organic carbon (TOC) for TMA clay and HDTMA clay, respectively. The transition of sorption mechanisms was also quantified with simulation of DTMA clay, with a chain length between that of TMA and HDTMA. Furthermore, this study suggested that at the molecular level, the controlling factor for the ultimate sorption capacity is available surface sites in the case of TMA clay, and density of aliphatic chains within the interlayer space for HDTMA clay.

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Decyltrimethylammonium bromide, ≥98.0% (NT)