Silica/alkali ratio dependence of the microscopic structure of sodium silicate solutions
Journal article, 2013
Alkaline sodium silicate solutions with SiO2:Na2O molar ratios in the range 4-10 are known to be colloidaily unstable manifested in phase separation or gelation. The mechanistic understanding of this instability is generally poor. To improve this situation the microscopic structure of a series of solutions with ratios in the range 3.3-8.9 has been characterised using small-angle X-ray scattering, Dynamic light scattering, Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy, and Si-29 Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to cover the relevant length scales related to silica clusters, aggregates, and particles present. In the starting solution, with ratio 3.3, there are silica present in three fractions. The main part is present as small silica clusters with a radius of 0.7 nm. There are also a significant portion of monomers/small oligomeric silica species as well as a minute amount of larger colloidal silica particles. At a higher SiO2:Na2O ratio, above approximately 4, smaller spherical colloidal particles are formed due to condensation reactions. However, as a result of a too high ionic strength the suspension is not stable and the particles aggregate to fractal structures with a size that depends on ratio and ageing time. At the highest SiO2:Na2O ratio, fractals are not formed because of the lower ionic strength and the smaller colloidal particles are stable in the solution. By carefully adding small amounts of NaCl to the high ratio solution it is possible to induce gelation of the solution confirming the hypothesis that the instability region is due to too high electrolyte concentration for the silica species present under those conditions.
SiO2:Na2O ratio dependance