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Title: 2015 Progress Report/July 2016: Iron Oxide Redox Transformation Pathways: The Bulk Electrical Conduction Mechanism

Despite decades of research on the reactivity and stable isotope properties of Fe oxides, the ability to describe the redox behavior of Fe oxides in the environment is still quite limited. This is due, in large part, to the analytical and spatial complexities associated with studying microscopic processes at the Fe oxide-water interface. This project had the long-term vision of filling this gap by developing a detailed understanding of the relationship between interfacial ET processes, surface structure and charge, and mineral semiconducting properties. We focused on the Fe(III)-oxides and oxyhydroxides because of their geochemical preponderance, versatility in synthesis of compositionally, structurally, and morphologically tailored phases, and because they are amenable to a wide range of surface and bulk properties characterization. In particular, reductive transformation of phases such as hematite (α-Fe 2O 3) and goethite (α-FeOOH) in aqueous solution can serve as excellent model systems for studies of electron conduction processes, as well as provide valuable insights into effect of nanoscale conductive materials on contaminant fate at DOE sites. More specifically, the goal of the Iowa component of this project was to use stable Fe isotope measurements to simultaneously measure isotope specific oxidation states and concentrations of Fe at the hematite-watermore » and goethite-water interface. This work builds on our previous work where we used an innovative combination of 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy and high precision isotope ratio measurements (MC-ICP-MS) to probe the dynamics of the reaction of aqueous Fe(II) with goethite. Mössbauer spectroscopy detects 57Fe only among all other Fe isotopes and we have capitalized on this to spectroscopically demonstrate Fe(II)-Fe(III) electron transfer between sorbed Fe(II) and Fe(III) oxides (Handler, et al., 2009; Gorski, et al. 2010; Rosso et al., 2010). By combining the Mössbauer spectroscopy and stable isotopes measurements, we have been able to simultaneously track the oxidation state and isotope concentration of the bulk Fe oxide and aqueous Fe. One of our most compelling findings is that despite the apparent stability of the Fe(II)-goethite system, there is actually a tremendous amount of Fe atom cycling occurring between the aqueous phase and the bulk goethite as indicated by the isotopic composition of both phases approaching the mass balance average (Handler et al., 2009). How such extensive re-crystallization and Fe atom exchange can occur with no significant morphological change is a fascinating question. Based on previous work from PI Rosso’s group showing that a potential gradient across hematite crystal faces leads to conduction through hematite and growth and dissolution at separate crystal faces we proposed that a redox-driven recrystallization could be occurring that would explain the extensive mixing observed with the isotope data. From our previous studies utilizing Mössbauer spectroscopy, we know that sorption of Fe(II) onto goethite results in electron transfer between the sorbed Fe(II) and the structural Fe(III) in goethite. Oxidation of the sorbed Fe(II) produces growth of goethite on goethite (i.e., homoepitaxy), as well as injection of an electron into goethite. It is possible that electron transfer from sorbed Fe(II) occurs across a potential gradient, and that Fe(II) atoms are dissolved at a different location on the goethite surface. These newly-reduced Fe(II) atoms could then dissolve into the aqueous phase, exposing fresh Fe(III) goethite to the aqueous phase. Through a repeated series of these five steps of sorption–electron transfer–crystal growth–conduction– dissolution, a redox-driven conveyor belt, could be established that would allow all of the goethite to be eventually exposed to the aqueous phase and exchanged. This surface-mediated recrystallization process would result in similar Fe isotope distributions in the aqueous phase and goethite particle, as we have observed here. It would also result in a stable aqueous Fe(II) concentration, if there were equal rates of goethite growth and dissolution.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (United States)
  2. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States