Structural stability of coprecipitated natural organic matter and ferric iron under reducing conditions
The objective was to assess the interaction of Fe coprecipitated with dissolved organic matter (DOM) and its effect on Fe (hydr)oxide crystallinity and DOM retention under abiotic reducing conditions. A Fe-based coagulant was reacted with DOM from an agricultural drain and the resulting precipitate (floc) was exposed to S(-II) and Fe(II). Solution concentrations of Fe(II/III) and DOM were monitored, floc crystallinity was determined using X-ray diffraction, and the composition and distribution of functional groups were assessed using scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) and near edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy. Results indicate coprecipitation of Fe(III) with DOM forms a non-crystalline floc that withstands crystallization regardless of change in pH, Fe:DOM ratio and type of reductant added. There was no evidence that exposure to reducing conditions led to release of DOM from the floc, indicating that coprecipitation with complex natural DOM in aquatic environments may stabilize Fe (hydr)oxides against crystallization upon reaction with reduced species and lead to long term sequestration of the DOM. STXM analysis identified spatially distinct regions with remarkable functional group purity, contrary to the model of DOM as a relatively uniform complex polymer lacking identifiable organic compounds. Polysaccharide-like OM was strongly and directly correlated with the presence of Fe but showed different Fe binding strength depending on the presence of carboxylic acid functional groups, whereas amide and aromatic functional groups were inversely correlated with Fe content. âº Co-precipitation with NOM stabilized Fe hydroxides against reductive crystallization. âº Co-precipitated NOM was not released regardless of pH or type of reductant. âº Coagulation with Fe separated DOM into distinct macromolecular domains.