African Journal of
Environmental Science and Technology

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Environ. Sci. Technol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0786
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJEST
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 1071

Full Length Research Paper

Characterization of clays from Tharaka-Nithi County in Kenya for industrial and agricultural applications

Njoka E. N
  • Njoka E. N
  • Department of Animal Sciences, Chuka University, Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya.
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Ombaka O
  • Ombaka O
  • Department of Physical Sciences, Chuka University, Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
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Gichumbi J. M
  • Gichumbi J. M
  • Department of Physical Sciences, Chuka University, Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
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Kibaara D. I
  • Kibaara D. I
  • Department of Biological Sciences, Chuka University, Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
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Nderi O. M
  • Nderi O. M
  • Department of Animal Sciences, Chuka University, Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya.
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  •  Received: 20 October 2014
  •  Accepted: 03 February 2015
  •  Published: 30 March 2015

Abstract

Clay samples from Tharaka-Nithi County in Kenya were characterized by hydrometer, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), TGA, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and powder diffraction (XRD) methods. The F-test and t-test were used to interpret the results. The major oxides present were Al2O3, SiO2 and the minor ones were CaO, TiO2, MnO, Fe2O3, K2O, MgO and Na2O. The values of SiO2 were greater than those of Al2O3, indicating that the samples were of clay minerals. The clay minerals with low cation exchange capacity (CEC) were present in the samples. The Atterberg limits showed that the inorganic clays of either low or intermediate plasticity having low contents of organic matter were present in the samples. The analysis further showed the availability of essential elements necessary for plant growth. The TGA analysis indicated that the decomposition of clay samples occurred in four steps. The scanning electron microscope photographs revealed that the samples contained a mixture of minerals of morphologies with crystallinity, high porosity and unstable under the electron beam. The major impurity in the clay is quartz, ranging from 22.6-31.9%. Albite is the most dominant component in the clay minerals contributing to 30.3 to 44.1%. The clay from the study area can be used as agro mineral additive to enhance soil fertility for crop production, a fluxing agent in ceramics and glass applications and also as functional fillers in the paint, plastic, rubber and adhesive industries after beneficiation.
 
Key words: Scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, clay minerals, Atterberg limits, atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), TGA, quartz.