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Environmentally Abundant Anions Influence the Nucleation, Growth, Ostwald Ripening, and Aggregation of Hydrous Fe(III) Oxides

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journal contribution
posted on 22.05.2012, 00:00 by Yandi Hu, Byeongdu Lee, Christopher Bell, Young-Shin Jun
The simultaneous homogeneous and heterogeneous precipitation of hydrous Fe­(III) oxides was investigated in the presence of environmentally ubiquitous anions (nitrate, chloride, and sulfate). Experiments were conducted with 10–4 M Fe­(III) at acidic pH (pH = 3.7 ± 0.2), which often occurs at acid mine drainage sites or geologic CO2 storage aquifers near injection wells. Quartz was used as a model substrate for heterogeneous precipitation. Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and grazing incidence SAXS (GISAXS), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements were conducted. In situ SAXS/GISAXS quantified the size, total particle volume, number, and surface area evolutions of the primary nanoparticles formed in the nitrate and chloride systems. In both systems, the heterogeneously precipitated particles were smaller than the homogeneously precipitated particles. Compared with chloride, the volume of heterogeneously precipitated hydrous Fe­(III) oxides on the quartz surface was 10 times more in the nitrate system. After initial fast heterogeneous nucleation in both nitrate and chloride systems, nucleation, growth, and aggregation occurred in the nitrate system, whereas Ostwald ripening was the dominant heterogeneous precipitation process in the chloride system. In the sulfate system, fast growth of the heterogeneously precipitated particles and fast aggregation of the homogeneously precipitated particles led to the formation of particles larger than the detection limit of GISAXS/SAXS. Thus, the sizes of the particles precipitated on quartz surface and in solution were analyzed with AFM and DLS, respectively. This study provides unique qualitative and quantitative information about the location (on quartz surfaces vs in solutions), size, volume, and number evolutions of the newly formed hydrous iron oxide particles in the presence of quartz substrate and ubiquitous anions, which can help in understanding the fate and transport of pollutants in the environment.