Sequestration of Antimony on Calcite Observed by Time-Resolved Nanoscale Imaging
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Antimony, which has damaging effects on the human body and the ecosystem, can be released into soils, ground-, and surface waters either from ore minerals that weather in near surface environments, or due to anthropogenic releases from waste rich in antimony, a component used in batteries, electronics, ammunitions, plastics, and many other industrial applications. Here, we show that dissolved Sb can interact with calcite, a widespread carbonate mineral, through a coupled dissolution–precipitation mechanism. The process is imaged in situ, at room temperature, at the nanometer scale by using an atomic force microscope equipped with a flow-through cell. Time-resolved imaging allowed following the coupled process of calcite dissolution, nucleation of precipitates at the calcite surface and growth of these precipitates. Sb(V) forms a precipitate, whereas Sb(III) needs to be oxidized to Sb(V) before being incorporated in the new phase. Scanning-electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy allowed identification of the precipitates as two different calcium–antimony phases (Ca2Sb2O7). This coupled dissolution–precipitation process that occurs in a boundary layer at the calcite surface can sequester Sb as a solid phase on calcite, which has environmental implications as it may reduce the mobility of this hazardous compound in soils and groundwaters.
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