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Research & Development and Mining

We pay particular attention to the quality of our technical activities, raw materials and the finished products we develop, produce and sell around the world.
This special care involves their definition, properties and consistency over time, effectiveness, ease of use in application and the development of their range.

The R&D department is staffed almost entirely by graduates or specialized technicians – chemists, engineers, geologists and biologists – each with specific experience in their role.
The group consists of about 30 people located variously in offices and laboratories in Livorno and Villaspeciosa in Italy, Limay in France, Fatsa in Turkey and Pundi and Mumbai in India.

  • Our work group covers the following company roles:

    • Quality System & Procedures Management guarantees production of the documentation to support the definition of procedures for the most important company processes and their flows.

      We decided to give a different interpretation to the concept of “problem” and endow it with a different meaning. So now a problem will be the basis of a Shared Improvement Action to be followed up by special work groups with the right motivation, enthusiasm and technical skills to find a definitive solution to existing problems with the aim of achieving continuous improvement.

    • Prospecting for new Raw Materials (Mining)

      This is a strategic activity for the company, which aims to guarantee the reliability and uniqueness of its product range. We make use of geologists and modern technologies in the search for new mineral sources, and expert chemists and analysts in the laboratories of the group’s various companies to determine the quality and particular properties of the materials we prospect for, as well as their long-term availability in economic terms. Our mines form the fundamental basis of our business, and as such, certainty for our customers.

    • Raw Material Product and Processing management is an activity related to the scouting of new raw materials on one hand and their processing and adaptation to the specific applications for which they are designated, on the other.

    • Quality control management in the various laboratories located alongside the Group’s production plants starts with checks on raw materials, go through process checks in order to avoid non conformities and also drive planned maintenance work to attain a finished product that meets the desired internal product specifications as specified by our Product Managers.

      This means that each our product is traced, step by step from the mine to the end user with each step being carefully checked against standards and specifications that have been planned and shared to guarantee an output that leaves our clients worry-free.

    • Product Management embraces various technical roles within the company and communicates these beyond its confines.

      It consists of a group of technical experts in the product ranges who are fully familiar with product applications and their designated markets. They know our clients well and hold regular talks with them to become their favourite partners; capable of solving problems, developing new products and targeted solutions.

      Product Managers are responsible for maintaining the characteristics and developing their product range and applications. Last but not least, they provide pre- and post- sales technical assistance.

  • Bentonite is a clay mineral of the smectite group and is composed mainly of montmorillonite.

    The smectites are a group of minerals that swell as they absorb water or organic molecules within the structural layers; they also have considerable cationic exchange properties.

    The clay mineral they are composed of in the crystalline state is derived from the devitrification, and consequent chemical change, of glass of magmatic origin, usually tufa or volcanic ash (definition by Ross and Shannon, 1926).

    The nature and volcanic origins of bentonite deposits give rise to varieties of the mineral that are often extremely heterogeneous. The bentonites that are thus formed that can be described as sodium, calcium and acid bentonites.

    The crystallographic basis of the montmorillonite (bentonite) is typical of phyllosilicates: sheets of AIX octahedrons (X=oxygen or oxydril) between two sheets of SiO4 tetrahedrons.

    In the octahedron layer the aluminium may be replaced by magnesium, thus giving rise to an excess negative charge: the negative charge in excess is compensated for by various mono and bivalent cations (Ca, Mg, Na…).

    This elementary particle is a lamella: the various lamellas are held together in “packets” by Van der Waals force fig, but they can be “delamellised” and dispersed in water in submicronic particles until a specific superficial area of 800 m2/g is developed.

    • Sodium calcium bentonite

      A lamella of montmorillonite has a negatively charged surface and a positive residual charge at the vertices: this is due to the isomorphous replacement of aluminium ions with magnesium ions in the octahedron layer. The negative charge on the surface of the lamella is compensated for by cations, such as sodium, calcium and magnesium, situated between the lamellas and known as “interchangeable or interlamellar cations”. The predominance of one cation over another gives the material different characteristics and determines its definition as calcium bentonite or sodium bentonite.

      Due to the strong positive charge in the presence of bivalent cations such as calcium, the molecules of water cannot penetrate the lamellas and open them, so calcium bentonites do not swell in water. Because of the size of the hydrated sodium ions, sodium bentonites allow the water to penetrate the lamellas, which expand giving the “swelling” effect that is typical of sodium bentonites.

    • Thickening & Thixotropic properties

      Another feature of sodium bentonites is its thickening and thixotropic properties. The hydrated sodium ion leaves the interlamella layer, freeing the negatively charge surfaces of the lamellas, which will be repelled due to electrostatic interaction. Good dispersion and separation of the lamellas causes the formation of an ordered structure, called a “house of cards”, which is derived from the electrostatic attraction between the surfaces of the lamellas and the positive charge at the vertices of the others.

      Caused by the dispersion of bentonite in water, this structure brings about a physical increase in the viscosity of the suspension, an increase that can also be very high in specific products. La sospensione in stato di quiete gelifica, mentre, sottoposta a forze meccaniche , le lamelle di montmorillonite si dispongono seguendo le linee di forza e ridando fluidità alla sospensione. When at rest, the suspension gels, but when it is subjected to mechanical forces, the montmorillonite lamellas range themselves along the line of force making the suspension return to its liquid state. This behaviour which is typical of smectites is known as thixotropy and emphasises how viscosity depends on the mechanical forces to which it is subjected and on time.