Bentonite mineral is a type of clay popularly dubbed “miracle mud” because of its diverse uses. Some of its uses include drilling fluids, absorbents, sealants, and many more. But what is bentonite? What makes it beneficial in various types of industries? Let’s find out below.
What is Bentonite?
Bentonite is a clay that occurs from altering volcanic ash’s minute glass particles. Its name is a toponym for Fort Benton—a mining area in Wyoming, US, where it was first discovered in the 19th century.
To transform volcanic ash into bentonite particles, some natural processes are required. These include hydration, elimination of bases, silica, and alkalis, as well as the preservation of the original volcanic ash’s textures.
Bentonite is mainly made up of clay minerals that fall under the category of smectite. There are two known varieties of bentonite, each with unique applications based on its properties. Below are the said types of bentonites:
1. Sodium Bentonite
Sodium bentonite is also referred to as swelling-type bentonite. Besides being able to swell many times, sodium bentonite can also absorb much water and produce gel-like masses’ suspensions. For these properties, sodium bentonite is used in various industries, including foundry, ceramic, pharmaceutical, and many more.
2. Calcium Bentonite
This is a non-swelling type of bentonite, also popularly dubbed fuller’s earth. It can break down into a finely grained form, frequently used as an absorbing agent in various industries.
Where Is Bentonite Found?
Bentonite was first discovered in Wyoming and has been mined for over 125 years. However, according to the British Geological Survey 2014-2018, China was the biggest producer of bentonite in the world, followed by the US and India.
In the same period, approximately 24.4 million tons of bentonite mineral and 3.4 million tons of fuller’s earth were mined globally. The world’s majority of quality sodium bentonite is mined in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Turkey’s Tokat Resadiye region.
Meanwhile, calcium bentonite is primarily produced in Greece, India, Australia, Ukraine, and Russia. In the US, this non-swelling bentonite is mined around Alabama and Mississippi. New Zealand, Greece, India, China, Turkey, and Germany significantly produce this bentonite type.
What Are the Uses of Bentonite?
As mentioned above, bentonite is called miracle mud, for it can be used in various applications, from heavy industry to the pharmaceutical industry. Below are the primary uses of bentonite:
1. Drilling Mud
Bentonite has unique rheological characteristics, making it popularly utilized in the drilling industry. Its widespread use in drilling mud is to cool down and lubricate cutting tools, prevent blowouts, and remove cuttings. Due to its tendency to promote the mud cake’s development, bentonite is also utilized to avoid the invasion of drilling liquid.
Steel and iron foundry industries have long utilized bentonite as a binding agent. Its sodium type is more frequently employed in large casting foundries, while its counterpart is used for small-sized castings made with wet molds.
The steelmaking industry also frequently makes the most of bentonite properties as a binder, particularly in producing iron ore pellets. A small amount of this mineral is used as one of the ingredients in manufacturing ceramic glazes and clay bodies. It’s because bentonite can boost clay bodies’ plasticity and decrease glazes’ settling.
Various mineral, animal, and vegetable oils must be purified before shifting to the following process. Thanks to the absorbent property of bentonite, this clay mineral is used for that purpose. Bentonite also purifies liquids and drinks, including vinegar, cider, wine, beer, and liquor.
In addition to the three primary uses of bentonite above, the mineral is also found in other products we use daily. These include medication, crayons, face creams, lipstick, shampoos, and lotions.
Seeing all the varied uses of bentonite minerals, it’s clear that the mineral truly is a miracle mud. Do you know what other clay deserves the name “miracle mud”? It’s no different from kaolin. Kaolin is a silicate mineral used in ceramics, coated paper, medicine, cosmetics, and many more. You can contact PT Yudian Kawan Mineral—a kaolin supplier with over 3 decades of experience—should you require high-quality kaolin for your business.