Cliff Johnston

DBR Distinguished Speaker Series 2014-2015

Andrew Main Lecture:

"Understanding the Surface Chemistry of Oil Sands Clay Minerals: Implications for Improved Extraction and Management of Tailings"


The oil sand ores of northern Alberta are currently being mined at a rate of 105 tons per hour which provides a significant portion of the overall energy portfolio for North America. Surprisingly, it is the presence of nano-sized clay minerals that play a defining role both in the extraction of bitumen and in tailings management. Although seemingly insignificant in size, naturally occurring clay minerals present in the oil sand ores of northern Alberta create significant challenges in all aspects of bitumen extraction and recovery, processing of oil sand ores, and management of tailings. Although a significant body of knowledge exists on the characterization of ‘oil sands clay minerals’, much of this work has focused on the identification of the clay minerals present and not on their respective surface chemistries. This talk will focus on some of the unique structural features of the clay minerals found in the oil sands and their respective surface chemistries. To better understand the surface chemistry of these important mineral phases, we will report on their hydrophilic and hydrophobic nature as determined using a suite of molecular probes.


Dr. Cliff Johnston is a professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he has developed a large expertise in various areas of clay mineralogy and mineral surface chemistry. His main research interests are in surface chemistry of clay minerals and related naturally occurring solid materials. Using spectroscopic, optical, thermal, and structural methods his research group examines fundamental and applied problems related to clay minerals and their interaction in nature. Current research projects range from fundamental studies of clay minerals and hydrous oxides, hydrophobic-hydrophilic nature of mineral surfaces, clay-polymer, clay-surfactant, and clay-protein interactions to applied problems including enhanced oil recovery and developing an improved understanding of the surface chemistry of oil sands clay minerals. Although broad in scope most of his research projects include molecular-level investigations of processes occurring on mineral surfaces. He has published more than 135 papers, 19 invited book chapters and one edited book. He served as President of The Clay Minerals Society (CMS) and is currently the Curator for The Source Clays Repository of the CMS. He has received mid-career research awards from both The Clay Minerals Society and the Soil Science Society of America and was named the George Brown Lecturer for The Mineralogical Society of London. He has presented numerous keynote and invited lectures throughout the world.

Cliff Johnston

Dr. Cliff Johnston

Professor of Soil Chemistry
Purdue University, USA
Tel: 765.496.1716


May 12, 2015


3:30 pm - 4:30 pm


CCIS 1-440


Dr. Qi Liu