US Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 233, 38–49 (2001); doi:10.1006/jcis.2000.7227


We have investigated the effect of changes in solution chemistry on the nature of uranyl sorption complexes on montmorillonite (SAz-1) at different surface coverages (1.43–53.6 µmol/g). Uranyl uptake onto SAz-1 between pH 3 and 7 was determined in both titration and batch-mode experiments. These pH values result in solutions that contain a range of monomeric and oligomeric aqueous uranyl species. Continuous-wave and timeresolved emission spectroscopies were used to investigate the nature of U(VI) sorbed to SAz-1. A discrete set of uranyl surface complexes has been identified over a wide range of pH values at these low to moderate coverages. For all samples, two surface complexes are detected with spectral characteristics commensurate with an inner-sphere complex and an exchange-site complex; the relative abundance of these two species is similar over these pH values at low coverage (1.43–2.00 µmol/g). In addition, surface species having spectra consistent with polymeric hydroxide-like sorption complexes form at the moderate coverages (~34–54 µmol/g), increasing in abundance as the capacity of the amphoteric surface sites is exceeded. Furthermore, a species with spectral characteristics anticipated for an outer-sphere surface complex is observed for wet paste samples at low pH (3.7– 4.4) and both low (~2 µmol/g) and moderate (~40 µmol/g) coverage. There are only subtle differences in the nature of sorption complexes formed at different pH values but similar coverages, despite markedly different uranyl speciation in solution. These results indicate that the speciation in the solution has minimal influence on the nature of the sorption complex under these experimental conditions. The primary control on the nature and abundance of the different uranyl sorption complexes appears to be the relative abundance and reactivity of the different sorption sites.