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Montmorillonite is a very soft phyllosilicate group of minerals that typically form in microscopic crystals, forming a clay. It is named after Montmorillon in France. Montmorillonite, a member of the smectite family, is a 2:1 clay, meaning that it has 2 tetrahedral sheets sandwiching a central octahedral sheet. The particles are plate-shaped with an average diameter of approximately one micrometre. Members of this group include saponite.

It is the main constituent of the volcanic ash weathering product, bentonite.

The water content of montmorillonite is variable and it increases greatly in volume when it absorbs water. Chemically it is hydrated sodium calcium aluminium magnesium silicate hydroxide (Na,Ca)0.33(Al,Mg)2(Si4O10)(OH)2·nH2O. Potassium, iron, and other cations are common substitutes, the exact ratio of cations varies with source. It often occurs intermixed with chlorite, muscovite, illite, cookeite and kaolinite.

Cave conditions

Montmorillonite can be concentrated and transformed within cave environments. The natural weathering of the cave can leave behind concentrations of aluminosilicates which were contained within the bedrock. Montmorillonite can form slowly in solutions of aluminosilicates. High HCO3 concentrations and long periods of time can aid in the formation. Montmorillonite can then transform to palygorskite under dry conditions and to endellite in acidic conditions (pH 5 or lower). Endellite can further transform into halloysite by drying.[3]


Montmorillonite is used in the oil drilling industry as a component of drilling mud, making the mud slurry viscous which helps in keeping the drill bit cool and removing drilled solids. It is also used as a soil additive to hold soil water in drought prone soils, to the construction of earthen dams and levees and to prevent the leakage of fluids. It is also used as a component of foundry sand and as a desiccant to remove moisture from air and gases.

Similar to many other clays, montmorillonite swells with the addition of water. However, some montmorillonites expand considerably more than other clays due to water penetrating the interlayer molecular spaces and concomitant adsorption. The amount of expansion is due largely to the type of exchangeable cation contained in the sample. The presence of sodium as the predominant exchangeable cation can result in the clay swelling to several times its original volume. Hence, sodium montmorillonite has come to be used as the major constituent in non-explosive agents for splitting rock in natural stone quarries in order to limit the amount of waste, or for the demolition of concrete structures where the use of explosive charges is unacceptable.

This swelling property makes montmorillonite-containing bentonite useful also as an annular seal or plug for water wells and as a protective liner for landfills. Other uses include as an anti-caking agent in animal feed, in paper making to minimize deposit formation and as a retention and drainage aid component. Montmorillonite has also been used in cosmetics. Montmorillonite is known for its adsorbent qualities and has been used successfully in scientific trials to eliminate atrazine from water.[4]

Calcined clay products

Montmorillonite can be (calcined) to produce arcillite, a porous, calcined clay sold as a soil conditioner for playing fields and other soil products such as for use as bonsai soil as an alternative to akadama.[citation needed]

Use in medicine and pharmacology

Montmorillonite clay is widely used in medicine and pharmacology.

For internal use, montmorillonite is effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.[5] It is also used for the prevention of aflatoxicosis,[6] and in the treatment of constipation.[7] Also, a modified version inhibits intestinal absorption of cholesterol (nanotechnology research),[8] and absorbs uric acid.[9] It is used in agriculture to improve growth performance of piglets and fish.[10][11] It ameliorates hyperthyroidism of rats and mice.[12] Montmorillonite is also used in other related research.[13][14][15]

Montmorillonite is proven to be effective in use as an adsorptive of heavy metals, toxins, and hazardous chemicals.[16][17][18][19]

Antibacterial effects of montmorillonite are well demonstrated.[20][21] [22][23][24][25][26][27]

For external use, montmorillonite has also shown its effectiveness.[28][29][30] It has also shown itself useful for tissue engineering.[31]

Montmorillonite is widely used in pharmacology for a variety of application, such as stabilization of suspensions and emulsions, viscosizing, adhesion to the skin, and tablet making.[32] It is also used as drug carrier,[33][34] or as part of a drug delivery system,[35][36] such as for controlled drug release;[37] including for gene delivery,[38][39] and for drug targeting to specific tissues.[40] It is also used for stability enhancement in drug and nutrient application.[41] There are also other similar uses.[42]

Montmorillonite is also used in the production of pharmaceuticals, e.g. as a catalyst.[43][44] [45]


Montmorillonite was discovered in 1847 in Montmorillon in the Vienne prefecture of France, more than 50 years before the discovery of bentonite in the US. It is found in many locations world wide and known by other names.

Lipid organization

Montmorillonite is also known to cause micelles (lipid spheres) to assemble together into vesicles. These are structures that resemble cell membranes on many cells. It can also help nucleotides to assemble into RNA which will end up inside the vesicles and, under the right conditions, will replicate themselves.[46] This process may have led to the origin of life on Earth. [47]


1. ^ http://rruff.geo.arizona.edu/doclib/hom/montmorillonite.pdf Mineral Data Publishing
2. ^ http://www.mindat.org/min-2821.html Mindat
3. ^ Hill, Carol; Paolo Forti (1997). "Deposition and Stability of Silicate Minerals". Cave Minerals of the World (Second Edition ed.). National Speleological Society. pp. 177. ISBN 1-879961-07-5.
4. ^ http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/72503084/ABSTRACT?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
5. ^ Ducrotte P, Dapoigny M, Bonaz B, Siproudhis L (February 2005). Symptomatic efficacy of beidellitic montmorillonite in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized, controlled trial. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 21 (4): 435–44.
6. ^ Characterization of clay-based enterosorbents for the prevention of aflatoxicosis. Phillips TD, Lemke SL, Grant PG. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2002;504:157-71. Review.
7. ^ Ann Gastroenterol Hepatol (Paris). 1987 Jan-Feb;23(1):43-6. [Evaluation of a new therapy (beidellian montmorillonite--guar gum) in the treatment of constipation] [Article in French] Pergola F. PubMed
8. ^ Inhibition of intestinal absorption of cholesterol by surface-modified nanostructured aluminosilicate compounds. Gershkovich, P., Darlington, J., Sivak, O., Constantinides, P.P., Wasan, K.M. 2009 Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 98 (7), pp. 2390-2400
9. ^ Montmorillonite absorbs uric acid and decreases the concentration of uric acid in the serum. Li, J.-T., Zhang, Y.-L., Ma, J.-Q., Gao, J., Wang, C.-S., Liu, J., Cao, Y.-X. 2008 2nd International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering, iCBBE 2008, art. no. 4535118, pp. 971-974
10. ^ Effects of copper bearing montmorillonite on the growth performance, intestinal microflora and morphology of weanling pigs. Animal Feed Science and Technology, Volume 118, Issues 3-4, 4 February 2005, Pages 307-317. M.S. Xia, C.H. Hu, Z.R. Xu
11. ^ Effects of Cu2+-exchanged montmorillonite on growth performance, microbial ecology and intestinal morphology of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Aquaculture, Volume 270, Issues 1-4, 28 September 2007, Pages 200-206 C.H. Hu, Y. Xu, M.S. Xia, L. Xiong, Z.R. Xu
12. ^ Cai Y., Meng X.-f., Cao Y.-x., Lu H., Zhu S.-f., Zhou L.-z. Montmorillonite ameliorates hyperthyroidism of rats and mice attributed to its adsorptive effect. (2006) European Journal of Pharmacology, 551 (1-3), pp. 156-161.
13. ^ Effect of montmorillonite on diffusion of creatinine between blood vessel and intestine. Long, L., Ma, Z., Cao, Y., Liu, J., Zhai, T. 2008 2nd International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering, iCBBE 2008, art. no. 4535517, pp. 1237-1240 doi:10.1109/ICBBE.2008.637
14. ^ Montmorillonite influences the diffusion of uric acid between blood vessel and intestinal tract. Ma, Z., Long, L.-H., Tao, X.-J., Wang, J., Liu, J., Zhou, L.-Z., Cao, Y.-X. 2008 Chinese Pharmacological Bulletin 24 (9), pp. 1245-1249
15. ^ Montmorillonite absorbs creatinine in circulating intestinal and vascular perfusates in rats. Long, L., Ma, Z., Cao, Y., Liu, J., Zhai, T., Zhou, L. 2008 Journal of Xi'an Jiaotong University (Medical Sciences) 29 (4), pp. 386-390
16. ^ Adsorption of a few heavy metals on natural and modified kaolinite and montmorillonite: a review. Bhattacharyya KG, Gupta SS. Adv Colloid Interface Sci. 2008 Aug 5;140(2):114-31. Epub 2008 Jan 17.
17. ^ In vitro, in vivo studies of Cu(II)-exchanged montmorillonite for the removal of lead (Pb). Animal Feed Science and Technology, Volume 127, Issues 3-4, 28 April 2006, Pages 327-335 D.Y. Yu, Z.R. Xu, X.G. Yang
18. ^ Equilibrium studies for trimethoprim adsorption on montmorillonite KSF. Journal of Hazardous Materials, Volume 133, Issues 1-3, 20 May 2006, Pages 233-242 Zehra Bekçi, Yoldaş Seki, M. Kadir Yurdakoç
19. ^ Comparison of the adsorptive properties of activated charcoal and alaskan montmorillonite for some common poisons. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Volume 10, Issue 1, January 1967, Pages 95-104 Roger P. Smith, R. E. Gosselin, Julia A. Henderson, Duwayne M. Anderson
20. ^ Globa, L.E. and Nykovskaya, G.N. Sorption of bacteriophages by the cation-substituted forms of montmorillonite, Acta virologica, 28: 329-333, 1984.
21. ^ Herrera P, Burghardt RC, Phillips TD. Adsorption of Salmonella enteritidis by cetylpyridinium-exchanged montmorillonite clays. Vet Microbiol (2000) 74:259–72.
22. ^ Hu CH, Xu ZR, Xia MS. Antibacterial effect of Cu2+-exchanged montmorillonite on Aeromonas hydrophila and discussion on its mechanism. Vet Microbiol (2005) 109:83–8.
23. ^ Tong G, Yulong M, Peng G, et al. Antibacterial effects of the Cu(II)-exchanged montmorillonite on Escherichia coli K88 and Salmonella choleraesuis. Vet Microbiol (2005) 105:113–22.
24. ^ Broad-spectrum in vitro antibacterial activities of clay minerals against antibiotic-susceptible and antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens. Haydel, Shelley E | Remenih, Christine M | Williams, Lynda B Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy [J. Antimicrob. Chemother.]. Vol. 61, no. 2, pp. 353-361. Feb 2008.
25. ^ A novel organoclay with antibacterial activity prepared from montmorillonite and Chlorhexidini Acetas. He H, Yang D, Yuan P, Shen W, Frost RL. J Colloid Interface Sci. 2006 May 1;297(1):235-43. Epub 2005 Nov 23.
26. ^ Antibacterial activity of montmorillonites modified with silver. Magaña, S.M., Quintana, P., Aguilar, D.H., Toledo, J.A., Ángeles-Chávez, C., Cortés, M.A., León, L., (...), Sánchez, R.M.T. 2008 Journal of Molecular Catalysis A: Chemical 281 (1-2), pp. 192-199
27. ^ Activity of antibacterial compounds immobilised on montmorillonite. Malachová, K., Praus, P., Pavlíčková, Z., Turicová, M. 2009 Applied Clay Science 43 (3-4), pp. 364-368
28. ^ A systematic review of contact dermatitis treatment and prevention. Saary J, Qureshi R, Palda V, DeKoven J, Pratt M, Skotnicki-Grant S, Holness L. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Nov;53(5):845. Review.
29. ^ Treatment of toxicodendron dermatitis (poison ivy and poison oak). Guin JD. Skin Therapy Lett. 2001 Apr;6(7):3-5. Review. PubMed
30. ^ Cytotoxic assessment of L-ascorbic acid/montmorillonite upon human dermal fibroblasts in vitro: MTT activity assay. Lee, Y.-H., Chen, B.-Y., Lin, F.-H., Lin, K.-Y., Lin, K.-F. 2008 Biomedical Engineering - Applications, Basis and Communications 20 (6), pp. 337-343
31. ^ Preparation of biomimetic three-dimensional gelatin/montmorillonite-chitosan scaffold for tissue engineering. Zheng, J.P., Wang, C.Z., Wang, X.X., Wang, H.Y., Zhuang, H., Yao, K.D. 2007 Reactive and Functional Polymers 67 (9), pp. 780-788
32. ^ Wai, K.W., Banker, G.S., 1966. Applications of the montmorillonites in tablet making. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 55, 1245-1248.
33. ^ A study of purified montmorillonite intercalated with 5-fluorouracil as drug carrier. Biomaterials, Volume 23, Issue 9, May 2002, Pages 1981-1987 F. H. Lin, Y. H. Lee, C. H. Jian, Jau-Min Wong, Ming-Jiun Shieh, Cheng-Yi Wang
34. ^ Montmorillonite intercalated with vitamin B1 as drug carrier. Joshi, G.V., Patel, H.A., Kevadiya, B.D., Bajaj, H.C. 2009 Applied Clay Science 45 (4), pp. 248-253
35. ^ Montmorillonite as a drug delivery system: Intercalation and in vitro release of timolol maleate. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, Volume 374, Issues 1-2, 5 June 2009, Pages 53-57 Ghanshyam V. Joshi, Bhavesh D. Kevadiya, Hasmukh A. Patel, Hari C. Bajaj, Raksh V. Jasra
36. ^ Poly(lactide)-vitamin E derivative/montmorillonite nanoparticle formulations for the oral delivery of Docetaxel. Feng, S.-S., Mei, L., Anitha, P., Gan, C.W., Zhou, W. 2009 Biomaterials 30 (19), pp. 3297-3306
37. ^ Dissociation constant of chlordiazepoxide in montmorillonite suspension and its pharmaceutical application for a controlled-release dosage form. Acta Pharm Hung. 1993 Sep;63(5):257-66. el-Sayed AM, Ismael A el-M, Assi A el-A.
38. ^ Modified montmorillonite as vector for gene delivery. Biomaterials, Volume 27, Issue 17, June 2006, Pages 3333-3338 Feng-Huei Lin, Chia-Hao Chen, Winston T.K. Cheng, Tzang-Fu Kuo
39. ^ Protective Effect of Montmorillonite on Plasmid DNA in Oral Gene Delivery into Small Intestine. Biol. Pharm. Bull., Vol. 27, 2049-2051 (2004). Masaya Kawase, Yuka Hayashi, Fumie Kinoshita, Eiji Yamato, Jun-ichi Miyazaki, Junji Yamakawa, Tomoyuki Ishida, Manabu Tamura and Kiyohito Yagi doi:10.1248/bpb.27.2049
40. ^ Multifunctional poly(d,l-lactide-style=co-glycolide)/montmorillonite (PLGA/MMT) nanoparticles decorated by Trastuzumab for targeted chemotherapy of breast cancer. Biomaterials, Volume 29, Issue 4, February 2008, Pages 475-486 Bingfeng Sun, Balu Ranganathan, Si-Shen Feng
41. ^ Feasibility study of using montmorillonite for stability enhancement of L-ascorbic acid. Lee, Y.-H., Chen, B.-Y., Lin, K.-Y., Lin, K.-F., Lin, F.-H. 2008 Journal of the Chinese Institute of Chemical Engineers 39 (3), pp. 219-226
42. ^ FT-IR and FT-Raman spectroscopic studies of adsorption of isoniazid by montmorillonite and saponite. Akyuz, S., Akyuz, T. 2008 Vibrational Spectroscopy 48 (2), pp. 229-232
43. ^ Fe-exchanged montmorillonite K10––the first heterogeneous catalyst for acylation of sulfonamides with carboxylic acid anhydrides. Tetrahedron Letters, Volume 45, Issue 24, 7 June 2004, Pages 4805-4807 Devendrapratap U Singh, Pankajkumar R Singh, Shriniwas D Samant
44. ^ Perez, E. (1995). "An efficient microwave-assisted method to obtain 5-nitrofurfural without solvents on mineral solid supports". Tetrahedron Letters 36: 1779–1782. doi:10.1016/0040-4039(95)00122-S. edit
45. ^ Montmorillonite KSF clay as an efficient catalyst for the synthesis of 1,4-dioxo-3,4-dihydrophthalazine-2(1H)-carboxamides and -carbothioamides under solvent-free conditions using microwave irradiation. Davood Habibi, Omid Marvi Catalysis Communications, ISSN: 15667367, Vol: 8, Issue: 2, Date: February, 2007, Pages: 127-130
46. ^ Clays May Have Aided Formation of Primordial Cells
47. ^ Clay's matchmaking could have sparked life

* Papke, Keith G. Montmorillonite, Bentonite and Fuller’s Earth Deposits in Nevada, Nevada Bureau of Mines Bulletin 76, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada-Reno, 1970.
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