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Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 194, pt. 1, originally published in 1969

Absorbent Clay Granules from Kansas Underclays

by Maynard P. Bauleke and John M. Huh

Cover of the book; beige paper with black text.

Originally published in 1969 as part of "Short Papers on Research in 1968," Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 194, part 1, p. 17-18. This is, in general, the original text as published. The information has not been updated.


Absorbent clay granules were prepared from Kansas underclays by the addition of a frothing agent to a clay slip, and then drying, crushing, and calcining the product. Absorbent properties were comparable to those of a commercial product.

An absorbent granule differs from an expanded lightweight granule in that the absorbent granule has a minimum of glass formed within the pore structure. A maximum amount of the pore structure should be open to liquid penetration. Absorbent clay granules suitable for absorbing oil, grease, water, etc., were made from kaolinitic Kansas underclays (Fig. 1). The absorbance of these granules is quite similar to that of absorbent clays from Georgia and Florida.

Figure 1--Crushed absorbent clay granules, x 9.

Photomicrograph of clay granules.

The laboratory method of making low-density absorbent clay granules was as follows:

  1. A 50/50 proportion (by weight) of clay and water was blended in a malted milk mixer.
  2. Two-tenths of one percent by weight (based on the weight of clay) of Santomerse #1 (Santomerse #1 is a 40-percent active alkyl aryl sulfonate manufactured by the Monsanto Chemical Company) was dissolved in a small amount of water and added to the agitating clay-water mixture.
  3. Air was entrapped in the suspension and a stable foam was formed.
  4. The foam was poured into a shallow pan and rapidly dried.
  5. The dried foam was given a preliminary coarse crushing and rapidly fired to 1500-1800°F.
  6. It was crushed to the final required size.

A small pilot plant (designed and built by Mr. John H. Denham, Black Diamond Coal Co., Route 1, Weir, Kansas) operation, based on the laboratory procedure, was started in southeastern Kansas, but the work was discontinued after making a study of the competitive material sold in the area. The following are sold as grease absorbent materials:

  1. Attapulgite clays from Georgia and Florida.
  2. Diatomaceous earth products.
  3. Expanded vermiculite waste.
  4. Absorbent raw clays from Illinois.

Comparison of oil absorption properties of the granules from frothed Kansas underclays and a commercial oil absorbent (Table 1) showed that the ability of Kansas granules to absorb oil was slightly better than that of the commercial product. Kansas granules were rough-textured, equiaxed particles. The economics of full-scale manufacturing appear to be marginal, with only the lower cost of shipping into the market area to offset the additional cost of frothing and drying the clay.

Table 1--Comparative oil absorption tests.*

oil absorbent
Absorbent Kansas
underclay granules
Weight per cu ft 31.97 lbs 27.10 lbs
Specific gravity
(determined in kerosene)
2.17 1.93
Oil absorption** (weight
of absorbent)
0.417 0.435
Time required for
166 seconds 84 seconds
Kerosene*** absorption test
(-16 + 40 mesh)
* Tests done by Bruce Williams Laboratories, Joplin, Mo.
** Linseed oil (7.75 lbs/gal) used in absorption test.
*** Test done in KGS laboratories.

For additional information pertinent to this paper see the following references:

McCarter, W. S. W., 1949, Producing absorbent cleaning composition: U.S. Patent 2,491,051. Dec. 13.

Modde, M. F., and Lawrence, W. G., 1968, Foamed clay-water systems for lightweight aggregate production: Am. Ceram. Soc. Bull., v. 47, no. 3, p. 264-266.

Nicholson, C. M., and Bole, G. A., 1953, Cellulated ceramic for the structural clay products industry: Jour. Am. Ceram. Soc., v. 36, no. 4, p. 127-136.

Kansas Geological Survey, Short Papers on Research in 1968
Placed on web July 26, 2011; originally published in Feb. 1969.
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