Sugar-influenced water diffusion, interaction, and retention in clay interlayer nanopores probed by theoretical simulations and experimental spectroscopies

Ludmilla Aristilde*, Stephen M. Galdi, Sabrina E. Kelch, Thalia G. Aoki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Understanding the hydrodynamics in clay nanopores is important for gaining insights into the trapping of water, nutrients, and contaminants in natural and engineered soils. Previous investigations have focused on the interlayer organization and molecular diffusion coefficients (D) of cations and water molecules in cation-saturated interlayer nanopores of smectite clays. Little is known, however, about how these interlayer dynamic properties are influenced by the ubiquitous presence of small organic compounds such as sugars in the soil environment. Here we probed the effects of glucose molecules on montmorillonite interlayer properties. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed re-structuring of the interlayer organization of the adsorptive species. Water-water interactions were disrupted by glucose-water H-bonding interactions. “Dehydration” of the glucose-populated nanopore led to depletion in the Na solvation shell, which resulted in the accumulation of both Na ions (as inner-sphere complexes) and remaining hydrated water molecules at the mineral surface. This accumulation led to a decrease in both DNa and Dwater. In addition, the reduction in Dglucose as a function of increasing glucose content can be explained by the aggregation of glucose molecules into organic clusters H-bonded to the mineral surface on both walls of the nanopore. Experimental nuclear magnetic resonance and X-ray diffraction data were consistent with the theoretical predictions. Compared to clay interlayers devoid of glucose, increased intensities and new peaks in the 23Na nuclear magnetic resonance spectra confirmed increasing immobilization of Na as a function of increasing glucose content. And, the X-ray diffraction data indicated a reduced collapse of glucose-populated interlayers exposed to decreasing moisture conditions, which led to the maintenance of hydrated clay nanopores. The coupling of theoretical and experimental findings sheds light on the molecular to nanoscale mechanisms that control the enhanced trapping of water molecules and solutes within sugar-enriched clay nanopores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-38
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Mineral interlayers
  • Smectite clays
  • Soil nanopore
  • Water diffusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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