Abstract: Hydroxy-carboxylic acids inhibit the crystallization of ferrihydrite in the pH range 9–11 in the order
citric > meso tartaric > L-tartaric ≫ lactic
and favor hematite formation relative to goethite in the order
L-tartaric > citric > meso tartaric > lactic.
The crystal shape of hematite can change from hexagonal plates to acicular in the presence of these acids. The influence of the acids on the crystallization rises with increasing concentration and with falling pH.
The effectiveness in suppressing crystallization depends on whether and how strongly the acid adsorbs on ferrihydrite and how strongly it complexes with Fe3+ in solution. Inhibition of crystallization of hematite is believed to be due to the di- and tricarboxylic acid linking ferrihydrite particles in an immobile network. Goethite formation is suppressed by the acid complexing with Fe in solution and hindering nucleation; strongly adsorbing acids also adsorb on the nuclei and hinder further growth. Certain acids can induce hematite formation because they contain a group which acts as a template for nucleation of hematite.