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Thallium (Tl) sorption onto illite and smectite: Implications for Tl mobility in the environment

Abstract : Clay minerals play a relevant role in the transport and fate of trace elements in the environment. Though illite has been referred as an important Thallium (Tl) bearing phase in soils, mechanisms and affinity of thallium for clay minerals remain poorly known. This study investigated the sorption behavior of thallium as Tl(I) onto illite and smectite, two clay minerals occurring mainly in soils and sediments. Different sorption experiments were carried out under various pH conditions and Tl concentrations, in competition with sodium and calcium at a constant ionic strength of 0.01 mol L$^{-1}$. Our results showed that illite displayed more affinity than smectite for thallium. With illite, the distribution coefficients (K$_d$ in L kg$^{-1}$) varied between 10$^{2.75 \pm 0.17}$ and 10$^{4.0 \pm 0.17}$ in Na solutions versus between 10$^{2.25 \pm 0.17}$ and 10$^{3.0 \pm 0.17}$ in Ca solutions, depending on pH. With smectite, K$_d$ (in L kg$^{-1}$) ranged between 10$^{2.50 \pm 0.16}$ and 10$^{3.20 \pm 0.16}$ and between 10$^{1.25 \pm 0.16}$ and 10$^{1.95 \pm 0.16}$ in Na and Ca solutions, respectively. Sorption behavior was described with the Multi-Site Ion Exchanger model and selectivity coefficients with respect to protons were calculated for the first time. In all cases, independently of clay mineral and background elec-trolyte, low capacity but highly reactive sites were dominant in thallium uptake, highlighting Tl affinity for those sites. Moreover , the exchangeable and reversible interactions between Tl$^+$ and clays reactive sites suggested that in changing conditions, thallium could be released in solution. The role of clay minerals in thallium environmental cycle is evident and confirmed illite to be a dominant Tl bearing phase, in some environment competing with manganese oxides. Compared to others Tl bearing mineral phases, clays are ranked as follows: MnO$_2$ > illite > smectite $\sim$ ferrihydrite $\geq$ Al$_2$ O$_3$ $\geq$ goethite > SiO$_2$. Finally, over the three monovalent cations (Tl, Rb, Cs) Tl is the one less sorbed on illite independently of the background cations.
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Martin Loic, Aubéry Wissocq, M.F. Benedetti, Christelle Latrille. Thallium (Tl) sorption onto illite and smectite: Implications for Tl mobility in the environment. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Elsevier, 2018, 230, pp.1-16. ⟨10.1016/j.gca.2018.03.016⟩. ⟨cea-02430086⟩

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