Mercury Reduction by Nanoparticulate Vivianite.


Etique M(1), Bouchet S(1), Byrne JM(2), ThomasArrigo LK(1), Kaegi R(3), Kretzschmar R(1).
Author information:
(1)Soil Chemistry Group, Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, Universitätstrasse 16, CHN, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.
(2)School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, BS8 1RJ Bristol, U.K.
(3)Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 133, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Mercury (Hg) is a toxic trace element of global environmental concern which has been increasingly dispersed into the environment since the industrial revolution. In aquatic and terrestrial systems, Hg can be reduced to elemental Hg (Hg0) and escape to the atmosphere or converted to methylmercury (MeHg), a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in food webs. FeII-bearing minerals such as magnetite, green rusts, siderite, and mackinawite are recognized HgII reducers. Another potentially Hg-reducing mineral, which commonly occurs in Fe- and organic/P-rich sediments and soils, is the ferrous iron phosphate mineral vivianite (FeII3(PO4)2·8H2O), but its reaction with HgII has not been studied to date. Here, nanoparticulate vivianite (particle size ∼ 50 nm; FeII content > 98%) was chemically synthesized and characterized by a combination of chemical, spectroscopic, and microscopic analyses. Its ability to reduce HgII was investigated at circumneutral pH under anoxic conditions over a range of FeII/HgII ratios (0.1-1000). For FeII/HgII ratios ≥1, which are representative of natural environments, HgII was very quickly and efficiently reduced to Hg0. The ability of vivianite to reduce HgII was found to be similar to those of carbonate green rust and siderite, two of the most effective Hg-reducing minerals. Our results suggest that vivianite may be involved in abiotic HgII reduction in Fe and organic/P-rich soils and sediments, potentially contributing to Hg evasion while also limiting MeHg formation in these ecosystems.