Effects of humic substances on Fe(II) sorption onto aluminum oxide and clay

Geochem Trans. 2018 Jan 25;19(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12932-018-0048-5.


We studied the effects of humic substances (HS) on the sorption of Fe(II) onto Al-oxide and clay sorbents at pH 7.5 with a combination of batch kinetic experiments and synchrotron Fe K-edge EXAFS analyses. Fe(II) sorption was monitored over the course of 4 months in anoxic clay and Al-oxide suspensions amended with variable HS types (humic acid, HA; or fulvic acid, FA) and levels (0, 1, and 4 wt%), and with differing Fe(II) and HS addition sequences (co-sorption and pre-coated experiments, where Fe(II) sorbate was added alongside and after HS addition, respectively). In the Al-oxide suspensions, the presence of HS slowed down the kinetics of Fe(II) sorption, but had limited, if any, effect on the equilibrium aqueous Fe(II) concentrations. EXAFS analyses revealed precipitation of Fe(II)-Al(III)-layered double hydroxide (LDH) phases as the main mode of Fe(II) sorption in both the HA-containing and HA-free systems. These results demonstrate that HS slow down Fe(II) precipitation in the Al-oxide suspensions, but do not affect the composition or stability of the secondary Fe(II)-Al(III)-LDH phases formed. Interference of HS with the precipitation of Fe(II)-Al(III)-LDH was attributed to the formation organo-Al complexes HS limiting the availability of Al for incorporation into secondary layered Fe(II)-hydroxides. In the clay systems, the presence of HA caused a change in the main Fe(II) sorption product from Fe(II)-Al(III)-LDH to a Fe(II)-phyllosilicate containing little structural Al. This was attributed to complexation of Al by HA, in combination with the presence of dissolved Si in the clay suspension enabling phyllosilicate precipitation. The change in Fe(II) precipitation mechanism did not affect the rate of Fe(II) sorption at the lower HA level, suggesting that the inhibition of Fe(II)-Al(III)-LDH formation in this system was countered by enhanced Fe(II)-phyllosilicate precipitation. Reduced rates of Fe(II) sorption at the higher HA level were attributed to surface masking or poisoning by HA of secondary Fe(II) mineral growth at or near the clay surface. Our results suggest that HS play an important role in controlling the kinetics and products of Fe(II) precipitation in reducing soils, with effects modulated by soil mineralogy, HS content, and HS properties. Further work is needed to assess the importance of layered Fe(II) hydroxides in natural reducing environments.

Keywords: Al; Fe(II); Humic substances; Layered double hydroxides; Phyllosilicates; Precipitation; Reducing environments; Sorption.