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Adsorption of Cu(II) to ferrihydrite and ferrihydrite-bacteria composites: importance of the carboxyl group for Cu mobility in natural environments

journal contribution
posted on 2012-09-01, 00:00 authored by Ellen MoonEllen Moon, C L Peacock
Bacterially associated iron (hydr)oxide composites are widespread in natural environments, and by analogy with isolated iron (hydr)oxides and bacteria, are important scavengers of dissolved trace-metals. We precipitated ferrihydrite via rapid Fe(III) hydrolysis in the absence and presence of the non-Fe metabolising, Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis, commonly found in natural waters, soils and sediments. We combined XRD, SEM, BET and Fe K-edge EXAFS to examine the mineralogy, morphology and crystallinity of the ferrihydrite composites. We find that the mineral fraction of the composites is unaltered in primary mineralogy, morphology and crystallinity compared to pure ferrihydrite. We then measured the adsorption of Cu to ferrihydrite and the ferrihydrite-B. subtilis composites as a function of pH and the ferrihydrite:bacteria mass ratio of the composites, and used EXAFS to determine the molecular mechanisms of Cu adsorption. We determine directly for the first time that Cu uptake by ferrihydrite-B. subtilis composites is the result of adsorption to both the ferrihydrite and B. subtilis fractions. Adsorption of Cu by the B. subtilis fraction results in significant Cu uptake in the low pH regime (pH ∼4, ∼20% of [Cu]total) and significantly enhanced Cu uptake in the mid pH regime. This composite sorption behaviour is in stark contrast to pure ferrihydrite, where Cu adsorption is negligible at low pH. Overall, for composites dominated by either ferrihydrite or B. subtilis, the bacterial fraction is exclusively responsible for Cu adsorption at low pH while the ferrihydrite fraction is predominantly responsible for adsorption at high pH. Furthermore, with an increased mass ratio of bacteria, the dominance of Cu adsorption to the bacterial fraction persists into the mid pH regime and extends significantly into the upper pH region. As such, the distribution of the total adsorbed Cu between the composite fractions is a function of both pH and the ferrihydrite:bacteria mass ratio of the composite. EXAFS shows that Cu adsorbs to ferrihydrite as an inner-sphere, (CuO4Hn)n-6bidentate edge-sharing complex; and to ferrihydrite composites as an inner-sphere, (CuO5Hn)n-8monodentate complex with carboxyl surface functional groups present on the bacterial fraction plus the bidentate edge-sharing complex on the ferrihydrite fraction. Our new results combined with previous work on Cu sorption to bacteria, humic substances and iron (hydr)oxides coated with humics, demonstrate the universal importance of the carboxyl moiety for Cu sorption and mobility in natural environments. Taken together these results show that Cu-carboxyl binding is the predominant mechanism by which Cu interacts with abiotic and biotic organic matter, and provides a ubiquitous control on Cu fate and mobility in natural waters, soils and sediments. Our results indicate that in environments where a significant proportion of iron (hydr)oxides are intimately intermixed with an organic fraction, we must consider Cu sequestration by these composites in addition to pure mineral phases.



Geochimica et cosmochimica acta




203 - 219




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2012, Elsevier Ltd.