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

BER Research Highlights

Visualizing Mercury on Surface of Freshwater Particulates
Published: September 30, 2014
Posted: October 03, 2014

Suspended particulates are primarily responsible for the transport of mercury and toxic methylmercury in freshwater systems; however, little is known about how mercury interacts with particulates. Mercury interactions with phytoplankton and colloidal minerals, two common types of particulates known to be involved in binding and transporting mercury, were studied by a team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy. Using samples from a mercury-contaminated freshwater system, the team found that mercury is mostly found on the outer surface of phytoplankton cells (diatoms) and that it is heterogeneously distributed on mineral particles rich in iron oxides and natural organic matter (NOM). The findings confirm that suspended particles, especially diatoms and NOM-coated oxide minerals, are important sinks for mercury in freshwater systems.

Reference: Gu, B., B. Mishra, C. Miller, W. Wang, B. Lai, S. C. Brooks, K. M. Kemner, and L. Liang. 2014. “X-Ray Fluorescence Mapping of Mercury on Suspended Mineral Particles and Diatoms in a Contaminated Freshwater System,” Biogeosciences Discussion 11, 7521-40. DOI:10.5194/bgd-11-7521-2014. (Reference link)

Contact: Paul E. Bayer, SC-23.1, (301) 903-5324
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Research Technologies and Methodologies

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


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