Particle arrangements in clay slurries: The case against the honeycomb structure

Amer Deirieh*, Irene Y. Chang, Michael L. Whittaker, Steven Weigand, Denis Keane, James Rix, John T. Germaine, Derk Joester, Peter B. Flemings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The properties of clay slurries (porosity ~ 0.75) impact a wide range of materials such as commercial clay dispersions and sedimentary deposits. Their material behavior, and in particular the gelation of clay slurries, is thought to be governed by clay particle interactions. In the literature, such interactions are rarely directly probed, but rather inferred from structures observed by cryo-electron microscopy. For example, the honeycomb structure is a widely accepted textbook model that is used to rationalize the observed behavior of clay slurries. Using high-pressure freezing, cryo-electron microscopy, and cryo-synchrotron wide-angle X-ray scattering, this study shows that the honeycomb-structure is an artifact of sample preparation. When samples are high-pressure frozen, individual clay particles and aggregates of particles arrange in a random orientation rather than the closed-cell structure dominated by face-face and face-edge contacts observed in plunge frozen samples. These results substantially contribute to the understanding of the gelation mechanism and particle interactions in colloidal clay slurries, and provide valuable input parameters for meso-scale modeling efforts of clay dispersions and sedimentary deposits to upscale their mechanical properties to the macroscale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-172
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Clay Science
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Clay colloids
  • Clay microstructure
  • Cryo SEM imaging
  • High pressure freezing
  • Honeycomb structure
  • Illite-Smectite
  • Plunge freezing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Particle arrangements in clay slurries: The case against the honeycomb structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this