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.