The dissolution of ferrihydrite induced by low molar mass (LMM) organics is an important process that provides bioavailable iron for organisms. Here, ATR-FTIR analysis was combined with characterization of ferrihydrite nanoparticles and kinetic modeling to investigate the roles of different oxalate surface complex species in the dissolution of ferrihydrite aggregates. ATR-FTIR results revealed that at least four different species were present at or near the ferrihydrite surface in the process of ferrihydrite aggregate dissolution. At a relatively low addition of oxalate (oxalate/Fe < 0.1), oxalate was dominantly present as binuclear bidentate surface complexes and aqueous species. The binuclear bidentate complexes mainly caused electrostatic repulsion between particles, resulting in the disaggregation of large ferrihydrite aggregates into colloidal particles with hydrodynamic diameters of 116-174 nm. Kinetic modeling showed that these colloidal particles were stable at the oxalate/Fe ratio of 0.1. With increasing addition of oxalate (oxalate/Fe ≥ 0.1), mononuclear bidentate oxalate complexes and hydrogen-bonded surface complex replaced the binuclear bidentate complexes and aqueous species. The aggregates or larger colloidal particles were further disaggregated into smaller colloidal particles with hydrodynamic diameters of 35-64 nm. Additionally, the mononuclear bidentate oxalate complexes promoted the dissolution of ferrihydrite colloids into dissolved Fe.
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