Iron solubility related to particle sulfur content in source emission and ambient fine particles

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Jun 19;46(12):6637-44. doi: 10.1021/es300701c. Epub 2012 Jun 7.


The chemical factors influencing iron solubility (soluble iron/total iron) were investigated in source emission (e.g., biomass burning, coal fly ash, mineral dust, and mobile exhaust) and ambient (Atlanta, GA) fine particles (PM2.5). Chemical properties (speciation and mixing state) of iron-containing particles were characterized using X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy and micro-X-ray fluorescence measurements. Bulk iron solubility (soluble iron/total iron) of the samples was quantified by leaching experiments. Major differences were observed in iron solubility in source emission samples, ranging from low solubility (<1%, mineral dust and coal fly ash) up to 75% (mobile exhaust and biomass burning emissions). Differences in iron solubility did not correspond to silicon content or Fe(II) content. However, source emission and ambient samples with high iron solubility corresponded to the sulfur content observed in single particles. A similar correspondence between bulk iron solubility and bulk sulfate content in a series of Atlanta PM2.5 fine particle samples (N = 358) further supported this trend. In addition, results of linear combination fitting experiments show the presence of iron sulfates in several high iron solubility source emission and ambient PM2.5 samples. These results suggest that the sulfate content (related to the presence of iron sulfates and/or acid-processing mechanisms by H(2)SO(4)) of iron-containing particles is an important proxy for iron solubility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants*
  • Biomass
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Solubility
  • Sulfur / analysis*
  • X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy


  • Air Pollutants
  • Sulfur
  • Iron