Magnesium silicate hydrate (M-S-H) characterization: temperature, calcium, aluminum and alkali
The various options to store radioactive wastes in deep geological strata considered in France or Switzerland include the use of large volumes of cementitious materials for infrastructure in contact with argillaceous rocks. So-called low-pH binders were developed to minimize disruption to the surrounding rock by the alkaline plume. Studies conducted on the interaction zone between concrete and clay systematically highlighted the formation of magnesium silicate phases including magnesium silicate hydrate (M-S-H) at the interfaces, which can presently be modeled only partially due to incomplete thermodynamic data. The purpose of this study was to characterize these phases in temperature, aluminum, calcium, and alkali conditions in order to provide the thermodynamic data and improve the calculations on physicochemical evolutions of low-pH concretes and possibly Portland concretes.
M-S-H phases were synthesized from magnesium oxide and silica fume in batch experiments at different temperatures, for various times and varying Mg/Si. A large number of different techniques such as chemical solid characterizations coupled with suspension investi-gations and liquid analyses were used to characterize the phases synthesized. Initially a M-S-H phase with Mg/Si equal to 1 was precipitated in addition to amorphous silica and brucite whatever the total Mg/Si used for the synthesis. After long equilibration times, 2 to 3 years at 20°C or 1 year at 50 and 70°C, the Mg/Si in M-S-H ranged from ~0.8 to ~1.4. The temperature had little influence on the M-S-H formed even if the M-S-H formation occurred faster and M-S-H was thermodynamically slightly less stable when the temperature was increased. At or near to equilibrium, M-S-H phases were characterized with ill-defined structure comparable to nano-crystallite, hydrated phyllosilicates with a surface area greater than 200 m2/g. A M-S-H solid-solution model was calculated and implemented in the thermodynamic database.
It was observed that M-S-H also form from calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H) with a Ca/Si = 0.8 in the presence of additional magnesium. In batch experiments, a low pH of the suspensions (pH ≤ 10) destabilized C-S-H or prevented its formation and favored the precipitation of M-S-H. Detailed investigations showed that small amounts of calcium could be incorporated in M-S-H (Ca/Si ≤0.10), such that also calcium containing end-members were added to the M-S-H solid-solution. At pH ≥ 10-10.5, two separate silicate phases coexist: C-S-H and M-S-H. The interface between a simplified "low-pH" binder mimicked by C-S-H with Ca/Si = 0.8 and a magnesium-rich environment mimicked by M-S-H with Mg/Si = 0.8 confirmed these phenomena. SEM-EDS observa-tions and reactive transport modelling using the thermodynamic data derived in the batch experiments showed the fast deterioration of the C-S-H and the precipitation of C-S-H in the C-S-H disk at the interface and a homogeneous uptake of calcium in the M-S-H disk.
The increase of pH favors the sorption. M-S-H with a sodium uptake up to Na/Si ~ 0.20 and without brucite formation were observed at high pH (12.5). The sorption on M-S-H was favored in the order Na+ < Mg2+ < Ca2+.
Finally, aluminum was incorporated into M-S-H to form magnesium alumino-silicate hydrate (M-A-S-H). An Al/Si ratio up to 0.2 was observed in presence of sodium aluminate or metakaolin. 27Al MAS NMR data showed that aluminum was present in both tetrahedral and octahedral sites of M-(A-)S-H. The M-(A-)S-H formed had a similar structure as M-S-H with a comparable polymerization degree of the tetrahedral silicates and a similar surface charge.