Journal of Applied Crystallography, 2014, vol 47, 1, pp. 316-324
Nitrogen sorption and small- and wide-angle X-ray and neutron scattering techniques were used to study the porous structure of geopolymers, inorganic polymers synthesized by reaction of a strongly alkaline solution and an aluminosilicate source (metakaolin). The effects of aging and the use of alkali activators (Na+, K+) of different sizes were investigated at room temperature. The influence of aging time on the microstructure of both geopolymer matrixes was verified in terms of pore volume and specific surface area. The results suggested a refinement of the porosity and therefore a reduction in the pore volume over time. Regardless of the age considered, some characteristics of the porous network such as pore size, shape and distribution depend on the alkali activator used. Whatever the technique considered, the potassium geopolymer has a greater specific surface area than the sodium geopolymer. According to the scattering results, the refinement of the porosity can be associated with, first, a densification of the solid network and, secondly, a partial closure of the porosity at the nanometre scale. The kinetics are much slower for the sodium geopolymer than for the potassium geopolymer in the six months of observation.