Effect of Adsorbed and Substituted Al on Fe(II)-Induced Mineralization Pathways of Ferrihydrite

C M Hansel, Deric Learman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The poorly crystalline Fe(III) hydroxide ferrihydrite is considered one of the most important sinks for (in)organic contaminants and nutrients within soils, sediments, and waters. The ripening of ferrihydrite to more stable and hence less reactive phases such as goethite is catalyzed by surface reaction with aqueous Fe(II). While ferrihydrite within most natural environments contains high concentrations of adsorbed or co-precipitated cations (particularly Al), little is known regarding the impact of these cations on Fe(II)-induced transformation of ferrihydrite to secondary phases. Accordingly, we explored the extent, rates, and pathways of Fe(II)-induced secondary mineralization of Al-ferrihydrites by reacting aqueous Fe(II) (0.2 and 2.0mM) with 2-line ferrihydrite containing a range of Al levels substituted within (6-24mol% Al) or adsorbed on the surface (0.1-27% Γmax). Here, we show that regardless of the Fe(II) concentration, Al substituted within or adsorbed on ferrihydrite results in diminished secondary mineralization and preservation of ferrihydrite. In contrast to pure ferrihydrite, the concentration of Fe(II) may not in fact influence the mineralization products of Al-compromised ferrihydrites. Furthermore, the secondary mineral profiles upon Fe(II) reaction with ferrihydrite are not only a function of Al concentration but also the mode of Al incorporation. While Al substitution impedes lepidocrocite formation and magnetite nucleation, Al adsorption completely inhibits goethite formation and appears to have a lesser impact on magnetite nucleation. When normalized to total Al content associated with ferrihydrite, Al adsorption results in greater degree of ferrihydrite preservation relative to Al substitution. These findings provide insight into mechanisms that may be responsible for ferrihydrite preservation and low levels of secondary magnetite typically found in sedimentary environments. Considering the preponderance of cation substitution within and adsorption on ferrihydrite in soils and sediments, the reactivity of natural (compromised) ferrihydrites and the subsequent impact on mineral evolution needs to be more fully explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4653-4666
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2011


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