Schwertmannite transformation to goethite via the Fe(II) pathway

Reaction rates and implications for iron-sulfide formation

E. D. Burton, R. T. Bush, L. A. Sullivan, D. R G Mitchell

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Schwertmannite (Fe8O8(OH)6SO4) is a common Fe(III)-oxyhydroxysulfate mineral in acid-sulfate systems, where its formation and fate strongly influence water quality. The present study examines transformation of schwertmannite to goethite (FeOOH), as catalyzed by interactions with Fe(II) in anoxic aquatic environments. This study also evaluates the role of the Fe(II) pathway in influencing the formation of iron-sulfide minerals in such environments. At pH > 5, the rates of Fe(II)-catalyzed schwertmannite transformation were several orders of magnitude faster than transformation in the absence of Fe(II). Complete transformation of schwertmannite occurred within only 3-5 h at pH > 6 and Fe(II)(aq) ≥ 5 mmol L-1. Model calculations indicate that the Fe(II)-catalyzed transformation of schwertmannite to goethite greatly decreases the reactivity of the Fe(III) pool, thereby favoring SO4-reduction and facilitating the formation of iron-sulfide minerals (particularly mackinawite, tetragonal FeS). Examination of in situ sediment geochemistry in an acid-sulfate system revealed that the rapid Fe(II)-catalyzed transformation was consistent with an abrupt shift from an acidic Fe(III)-reducing regime with abundant schwertmannite near the sediment surface, to a near-neutral mackinawite-forming regime where goethite was dominant. This study demonstrates that the Fe(II) pathway exerts a major influence on schwertmannite transformation and iron-sulfide formation in anoxic acid-sulfate systems. These findings have important implications for understanding acidity dynamics and trace element mobility in such systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4551-4564
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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