A Method for Imaging Single Clay Platelets by Scanning Electron Microscopy

A method for preparing and observing clay platelets for size and shape analysis using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was developed. Samples of the clay platelets were prepared by polyelectrolyte-assisted adsorption onto a pyrolytic graphite surface. The use of graphite as a substrate was advantageous because of the low number of secondary electrons emitted from it during imaging by SEM. The resulting low background noise allowed the emission from the ~1 nm thick clay sheets to be clearly visualized. Images of centrifuged montmorillonite showed large exfoliated platelets with lateral dimensions between 200 and 600 nm. In contrast, uncentrifuged montmorillonite appeared to contain a large amount of unexfoliated clusters. Although it was not possible to obtain high-quality images of the smaller sheets of Laponite RD, the images of this material did contain size features comparable to the ~30 nm 2 size reported previously using light scattering, as well as transmission electron and atomic force microscopies.


© IMRC CAS 2016

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