Iron oxide formation from FeCl2 solutions in the presence of uranyl (UO22+) cations and carbonate rich media
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The mineral goethite (a-FeOOH) has previously been investigated as a thermodynamically stable repository for many potentially toxic metals (e.g., Cd, Pb, Cu). The substitution of uranium (U as uranyl, UO22+) for Fe, however, has been studied sparingly, and conclusive uranium incorporation into the goethite structure has been obscured by formation of ploymineralic Fe systems that all appeared involved in U's sequestration. In this study, we investigated the formation of goethite from FeCl2 in the presence of seven nominal uranyl concentrations (0.2-4mole percent, U/(U+Fe)×100) and characterised the solids using quantitative X-ray diffraction (QXRD), X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy at the U LIII edge (17,166eV), diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier Transform (DRIFT) spectrometry and congruency of acid dissolution. Our findings show that U does indeed, however sparingly, incorporate into the goethite structure. The unit cell volume, ascertained from Rietveld models of XRD patterns, increased linearly as a function of U content, which could be ascribed to a linear increase of the unit cell length a and c. The highest U-for-Fe substitution was 0.48mole percent, however, most U-containing goethite samples showed substitution levels around 0.2mole percent, which was in good agreement with previous findings. DRIFT spectra showed a shift of the symmetric Fe-O and asymmetric Fe-OH stretch modes (t-O and t-OH bands, respectively) to lower frequency, which by Hooks analogy, can only occur if a heavier atom substitutes for Fe, i.e., U. The congruency of acid dissolution results showed that fractional U release was greater than the corresponding fractional Fe release into solution, suggesting that U was overall more soluble. In two of the synthates, however, (initial U mole percent of 2 and 4), the dissolution was congruent. XAFS data collected on a selected subset of samples showed the disappearance of the uranyl moiety with higher levels of U incorporation and acid extraction. In sample S6, non-linear least-square fits of the extended XAFS data demonstrated that the coordination environment around U atoms was sixfold occupied by O/OH atoms and was further coordinated by next nearest Fe neighbours that are 1.063±0.008times inflated in distance to the normal Fe-Fe distances in goethite without U substitution. Despite low levels of incorporation, U bound by goethite was recalcitrant to desorption/dissolution in increasingly acidic solutions thus warranting further research into the possibility of using iron oxides as a sink for U.
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