Formation of iron nanoparticles and increase in iron reactivity in mineral dust during simulated cloud processing

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Sep 1;43(17):6592-6. doi: 10.1021/es901294g.


The formation of iron (Fe) nanoperticles and increase in Fe reactivity in mineral dust during simulated cloud processing was investigated using high-resolution microscopy and chemical extraction methods. Cloud processing of dust was experimentally simulated via an alternation of acidic (pH 2) and circumneutral conditions (pH 5-6) over periods of 24 h each on presieved (<20 microm) Saharan soil and goethite suspensions. Microscopic analyses of the processed soil and goethite samples reveal the neo-formation of Fe-rich nanoparticle aggregates, which were not found initially. Similar Fe-rich nanoparticles were also observed in wet-deposited Saharen dusts from the western Mediterranean but not in dry-deposited dust from the eastern Mediterranean. Sequential Fe extraction of the soil samples indicated an increase in the proportion of chemically reactive Fe extractable by an ascorbate solution after simulated cloud processing. In addition, the sequential extractions on the Mediterranean dust samples revealed a higher content of reactive Fe in the wet-deposited dust compared to that of the dry-deposited dust These results suggestthat large variations of pH commonly reported in aerosol and cloud waters can trigger neo-formation of nanosize Fe particles and an increase in Fe reactivity in the dust

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Atmosphere* / chemistry
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties


  • Aerosols
  • Dust
  • Ferric Compounds
  • ferric oxide