Surface Charge Measurements with Scanning Ion Conductance Microscopy Provide Insights into Nitrous Acid Speciation at the Kaolin Mineral-Air Interface. Academic Article uri icon


  • Unique surface properties of aluminosilicate clay minerals arise from anisotropic distribution of surface charge across their layered structures. Yet, a molecular-level understanding of clay mineral surfaces has been hampered by the lack of analytical techniques capable of measuring surface charges at the nanoscale. This is important for understanding the reactivity, colloidal stability, and ion-exchange capacity properties of clay minerals, which constitute a major fraction of global soils. In this work, scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM) is used for the first time to visualize the surface charge and topography of dickite, a well-ordered member of the kaolin subgroup of clay minerals. Dickite displayed a pH-independent negative charge on basal surfaces whereas the positive charge on edges increased from pH 6 to 3. Surface charges responded to malonate addition, which promoted dissolution/precipitation reactions. Results from SICM were used to interpret heterogeneous reactivity studies showing that gas-phase nitrous acid (HONO) is released from the protonation of nitrite at Al-OH2+ groups on dickite edges at pH well above the aqueous pKa of HONO. This study provides nanoscale insights into mineral surface processes that affect environmental processes on the local and global scale.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

altmetric score

  • 4.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, C., Jagdale, G., Gandolfo, A., Alanis, K., Abney, R., Zhou, L., ... Baker, L. A.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Zhu, Cheng||Jagdale, Gargi||Gandolfo, Adrien||Alanis, Kristen||Abney, Rebecca||Zhou, Lushan||Bish, David||Raff, Jonathan D||Baker, Lane A

publication date

  • September 2021