Iron oxides and arsenic are prevalent in the environment. With the increase interest in the use of iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) for contaminant remediation and the high toxicity of arsenic, it is crucial that we evaluate the interactions between IONPs and arsenic. The goal was to understand the environmental behavior of IONPs in regards to their particle size, aggregation and stability, and to determine how this behavior influences IONPs-arsenic interactions.
A variety of dispersion techniques were investigated to disperse bare commercial IONPs. Vortex was able to disperse commercial hematite nanoparticles into unstable dispersions with particles in the micrometer size range while probe ultrasonication dispersed the particles into stable dispersions of nanometer size ranges for a prolonged period of time. Using probe ultrasonication and vortex to prepare IONPs suspensions of different particle sizes, the adsorption of arsenite and arsenate to bare hematite nanoparticles and hematite aggregates were investigated. To understand the difference in the adsorptive behavior, adsorption kinetics and isotherm parameters were determined. Both arsenite and arsenate were capable of adsorbing to hematite nanoparticles and hematite aggregates but the rate and capacity of adsorption is dependent upon the hematite particle size, the stability of the dispersion and the type of sorbed arsenic species. Once arsenic was adsorbed onto the hematite surface, both iron and arsenic can undergo redox transformation both microbially and photochemically and these processes can be intertwined. Arsenic speciation studies in the presence of hematite particles were performed and the effect of light on the redox process was preliminary quantified. The redox behavior of arsenite and arsenate were different depending on the hematite particle size, the stability of the suspension and the presence of environmental factors such as microbes and light. The results from this study are important and have significant environmental implications as arsenic mobility and bioavailability can be affected by its adsorption to hematite particles and by its surface mediated redox transformation. Moreover, this study furthers our understanding on how the particle size influences the interactions between IONPs and arsenic thereby clarifying the role of IONPs in the biogeochemical cycling of arsenic.