Solubility of toxic element-bearing jarosite nanoparticles in soil and sediment

Theme: Environmental Hazards & Pollution

Primary Supervisor:

Bill Dubbin

Earth Sciences Department, NHM

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Project Description:

Mining activities often produce acidic liquid wastes known as ‘acid rock or acid mine drainage’ (ARD/AMD). These ARD/AMD waters contain large amounts of dissolved, potentially toxic elements (PTE) such as arsenic and lead which threaten the quality of river water, associated sediments and nearby soils, with implications for agricultural productivity and ecosystem health.

Nano-sized (< 100 nm diameter) jarosite minerals can form in these environments and take up the PTE, but when transported to other sites they may subsequently break down, releasing PTE. Nanoparticulate jarosites are likely be to more reactive than coarser-grained jarosites, but no data exist to confirm this hypothesis.

Therefore, this study will address two questions: (i) Are jarosite nanoparticles more soluble than bulk jarosites, and, if so, at what size do they display a “nano-effect’?’, and (ii) Are the rates of nanoparticulate jarosite dissolution the same as for bulk jarosites?

Policy Impact of Research:

This cross-disciplinary research will inform the fields of environmental science, nanogeoscience, planetary science, soil science, geochemistry and mineralogy through greater understanding of jarosite solubility and the geochemical cycling of PTE.

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