Role of Fe(II) and phosphate in arsenic uptake by coprecipitation

Nita Sahai, Young J. Lee, Huifang Xu, Mark Ciardelli, Jean Francois Gaillard

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Natural attenuation of arsenic by simple adsorption on oxyhydroxides may be limited due to competing oxyanions, but uptake by coprecipitation may locally sequester arsenic. We have systematically investigated the mechanism and mode (adsorption versus coprecipitation) of arsenic uptake in the presence of carbonate and phosphate, from solutions of inorganic composition similar to many groundwaters. Efficient arsenic removal, >95% As(V) and ∼55% in initial As(III) systems, occurred over 24 h at pHs 5.5-6.5 when Fe(II) and hydroxylapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH, HAP) "seed" crystals were added to solutions that had been previously reacted with HAP, atmospheric CO2(g) and O2(g). Arsenic adsorption was insignificant (<10%) on HAP without Fe(II). Greater uptake in the As(III) system in the presence of Fe(II) was interpreted as due to faster As(III) to As(V) oxidation by molecular oxygen in a putative pathway involving Fe(IV) and As(IV) intermediate species. HAP acts as a pH buffer that allows faster Fe(II) oxidation. Solution analyses coupled with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), X-ray Energy-Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS), and X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) indicated the precipitation of sub-spherical particles of an amorphous, chemically-mixed, nanophase, FeIII[(OH)3(PO4)(AsVO4)]·nH2O or FeIII[(OH)3( PO4)(AsVO4)(AsIIIO3)minor]·nH2O, where AsIIIO3 is a minor component. The mode of As uptake was further investigated in binary coprecipitation (Fe(II) + As(III) or P), and ternary coprecipitation and adsorption experiments (Fe(II) + As(III) + P) at variable As/Fe, P/Fe and As/P/Fe ratios. Foil-like, poorly crystalline, nanoparticles of FeIII(OH)3 and sub-spherical, amorphous, chemically-mixed, metastable nanoparticles of FeIII[(OH)3, PO4]·nH2O coexisted at lower P/Fe ratios than predicted by bulk solubilities of strengite (FePO4·2H2O) and goethite (FeOOH). Uptake of As and P in these systems decreased as binary coprecipitation > ternary coprecipitation > ternary adsorption. Significantly, the chemically-mixed, ferric oxyhydroxide-phosphate-arsenate nanophases found here are very similar to those found in the natural environment at slightly acidic to circum-neutral pHs in sub-oxic to oxic systems, such phases may naturally attenuate As mobility in the environment, but it is important to recognize that our system and the natural environment are kinetically evolving, and the ultimate environmental fate of As will depend on the long-term stability and potential phase transformations of these mixed nanophases. Our results also underscore the importance of using sufficiently complex, yet systematically designed, model systems to accurately represent the natural environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3193-3210
Number of pages18
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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