Combining selective sequential extractions, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and principal component analysis for quantitative zinc speciation in soil

Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Dec 1;36(23):5021-8. doi: 10.1021/es025669f.


Selective sequential extractions (SSE) and, more recently, X-ray absorption fine-structure IXAFS) spectroscopy have been used to characterize the speciation of metal contaminants in soils and sediments. However, both methods have specific limitations when multiple metal species coexist in soils and sediments. In this study, we tested a combined approach, in which XAFS spectra were collected after each of 6 SSE steps, and then analyzed by multishell fitting, principal component analysis (PCA) and linear combination fits (LCF), to determine the Zn speciation in a smelter-contaminated, strongly acidic soil. In the topsoil, Zn was predominately found in the smelter-emitted minerals franklinite (60%) and sphalerite (30%) and as aqueous or outer-sphere Zn2+ (10%). In the subsoil, aqueous or outer-sphere Zn2+ prevailed (55%), but 45% of Zn was incorporated by hydroxy-Al interlayers of phyllosilicates. Formation of such Zn-bearing hydroxy-interlayers, which has been observed here for the first time, may be an important mechanism to reduce the solubility of Zn in those soils, which are too acidic to retain Zn by formation of inner-sphere sorption complexes, layered double hydroxides or phyllosilicates. The stepwise removal of Zn fractions by SSE significantly improved the identification of species by XAFS and PCA and their subsequent quantification by LCF. While SSE alone provided excellent estimates of the amount of mobile Zn species, it failed to identify and quantify Zn associated with mineral phases because of nonspecific dissolution and the precipitation of Zn oxalate. The systematic combination of chemical extraction, spectroscopy, and advanced statistical analysis allowed us to identify and quantify both mobile and recalcitrant species with high reliability and precision.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Industry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Zinc / analysis*
  • Zinc / chemistry*


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Zinc