U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Influence of Magnetite Composition on Environmental Mercury Speciation
Published: April 26, 2013
Posted: May 17, 2013

Mercury exists in several different forms in the environment, and some of these forms are quite toxic. Research is being conducted to gain a fuller understanding of how different forms of mercury interact with minerals and how these interactions influence mercury’s conversion into hazardous forms, or, conversely, its reduction to volatile metallic mercury. New studies of the behavior of mercury (II; the generally soluble, oxidized form of mercury) have shown that the common iron-containing mineral magnetite with a large proportion of ferrous (reduced) iron is effective in converting mercury (II) into mercury metal. If chloride ion was present in significant concentrations (as it often is in natural environments), then the mercury was reduced more slowly, and some of it was in the metastable mercury (I) chloride form. The studies, carried out by scientists at the University of Iowa, Argonne National Laboratory, and Illinois Institute of Technology, used X-ray spectroscopy stations at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source to study the changing forms of mercury.

Reference: Pasakarnis, T. S., M. I. Boyanov, K. M. Kemner, B. Mishra, E. J. O’Loughlin, G. Parkin, and M. M. Scherer. 2013. “Influence of Chloride and Fe(II) Content on the Reduction of Hg(II) by Magnetite,” Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es304761u. (Reference link)

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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