Properties and reactivity of Fe-organic matter associations formed by coprecipitation versus adsorption: Clues from arsenate batch adsorption
Ferric oxyhydroxides play an important role in controlling the bioavailability of oxyanions such as arsenate and phosphate in soil. Despite this, little is known about the properties and reactivity of Fe(III)-organic matter phases derived from adsorption (reaction of organic matter (OM) to post-synthesis Fe oxide) versus coprecipitation (formation of Fe oxides in presence of OM). Coprecipitates and adsorption complexes were synthesized at pH 4 using two natural organic matter (NOM) types extracted from forest floor layers (Oi and Oa horizon) of a Haplic Podzol. Iron(III) coprecipitates were formed at initial molar metal-to-carbon (M/C) ratios of 1.0 and 0.1 and an aluminum (Al)-to-Fe(III) ratio of 0.2. Sample properties were studied by X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), N2 gas adsorption, dynamic light scattering, and electrophoretic mobility measurements. Arsenic [As(V)] adsorption to Fe-OM phases was studied in batch experiments (168 h, pH 4, 100 μM As). The organic carbon (OC) contents of the coprecipitates (82-339 mg g-1) were higher than those of adsorption complexes (31 and 36 mg g-1), leading to pronounced variations in specific surface area (9-300 m2 g-1), average pore radii (1-9 nm), and total pore volumes (11-374 mm3 g-1) but being independent of the NOM type or the presence of Al. The occlusion of Fe solids by OM (XPS surface concentrations: 60-82 atom% C) caused comparable pHPZC (1.5-2) of adsorption complexes and coprecipitates. The synthesis conditions resulted in different Fe-OM association modes: Fe oxide particles in 'M/C 0.1' coprecipitates covered to a larger extent the outermost aggregate surfaces, for some 'M/C 1.0' coprecipitates OM effectively enveloped the Fe oxides, while OM in the adsorption complexes primarily covered the outer aggregate surfaces. Despite of their larger OC contents, adsorption of As(V) was fastest to coprecipitates formed at low Fe availability (M/C 0.1) and facilitated by desorption of weakly bonded OC and disaggregation. In contrast, 'M/C 1.0' coprecipitates showed a comparable rate of As uptake as the adsorption complexes. While small mesopores (2-10 nm) promoted the fast As uptake particularly to 'M/C 0.1' coprecipitates, the presence of micropores (<2 nm) appeared to impair As desorption. This study shows that the environmental reactivity of poorly crystalline Fe(III) oxides in terrestrial and aquatic systems can largely vary depending on the formation conditions. Carbon-rich Fe phases precipitated at low M/C ratios may play a more important role in oxyanion immobilization and Fe and C cycling than phases formed at higher M/C ratios or respective adsorption complexes.