Comparing the reactivity of different natural clays under thermal and alkali activation


  • Ahmed Zohair Khalifa Building Materials and Building Technology Section, KU Leuven
  • Yiannis Pontikes KU Leuven, Department of Materials Engineering, Kasteelpark Arenberg 44, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
  • Jan Elsen KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Celestijnenlaan 200C, B-3001 Heverlee, Belgium
  • Özlem Cizer KU Leuven, Department of Civil Engineering, Kasteelpark Arenberg 40, 3001 Leuven, Belgium



Metakaolin is one of the most popular solid aluminosilicate precursors for the synthesis of geopolymers. Despite its high reactivity and availability, there is a noticeable move towards the use of other natural clays as alternative precursors, due to their plentiful supply and widespread availability. Natural clays usually consist of a combination of 1:1 and 2:1 layer silicates reactivity of which vary. In this work, four different natural clays (SS, BS, MS and WS) composed of 1:1 and 2:1 clay minerals at different proportions were studied for the synthesis of geopolymers. To increase their reactivity prior to alkali activation, the clays were calcined in a laboratory oven at different temperatures (700, 750, 800, 850, 900 °C) and different holding times (10 seconds to 60 minutes). The reactivity of the calcined clays was assessed by the dissolution test and isothermal conduction calorimetry. NaOH and a mix of NaOH and Na2SiO3 were used as alkaline activators. The results show that the optimum calcination temperature of SS, BS and MS is 800 °C with a holding time of 10 minutes. WS is sufficiently calcined at a higher temperature of 900 °C for 20 minutes. Kaolinite-rich clays (SS) present more reactivity towards alkali activation than clays dominated by smectite or illite.  




How to Cite

Khalifa, A. Z.; Pontikes, Y.; Elsen, J.; Cizer, Özlem. Comparing the Reactivity of Different Natural Clays under Thermal and Alkali Activation. RILEM Tech Lett 2019, 4, 74-80.