Bentonite is a clay generated frequently from the alteration of a tuff or volcanic ash, consisting predominantly of smectite minerals, usually montmorillonite.
Smectites are clay minerals which consist of individual crystallites that are actually three-layer clay minerals. Common names for smectite include montmorillonite or sodium montmorillonite ("sodium bentonite" or "Wyoming bentonite") and swelling bentonite ("Western bentonite").
There are three types of bentonite occurring naturally:
- Natural Calcium Bentonite,
- Natural Sodium Bentonite and
- Sodium Activated Bentonites.
The majority of bentonites that can be find worldwide are calcium bentonites. Calcium bentonites are often characterized by much lower swelling and liquid limit values compared to natural sodium bentonite.