Abstract: The transformation of ferrihydrite to goethite and/or hematite, as influenced by the presence of co-precipitated Si, was investigated by infrared spectroscopy (IR), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Ferrihydrite samples having Si/Fe molar ratios ranging from 0 to 1 were synthesized by reacting Fe2(SO4)3 with NaOH to an equilibrium pH of 8.2 in the presence of Na2SiO3. The XRD pattern of the Si-free sample contained five distinct but weak peaks, whereas the patterns of ferrihydrite samples containing Si had only two broad bands. With an increase of the Si/Fe molar ratio from 0.10 to 1.0, the 2.54-Å XRD peak shifted to 2.97 Å, and broad IR bands were observed at 990 cm−1 (Si-O stretching region) and 450cm−1 (silicate bending region). The intensities of both IR bands increased with increasing Si/Fe molar ratio.
Ferrihydrite samples were incubated at room temperature in sodium acetate/acetic acid buffer solutions at pH 3, 5, 7, and 10 and in CaCO3 suspension at pH 8.3 for 10 months. Additional samples were incubated at pH 12.5 at 24° 40° 60°, and 91°C for 36 hr. Room-temperature incubation of ferrihydrite samples having Si/Fe molar ratios ≥0.1 at pH 3 for one week resulted in the dissolution of Fe and the precipitation of silica gel. Ferrihydrite samples having Si/Fe molar ratios ≤0.05 transformed to poorly crystalline goethite during room-temperature incubation at pH 5. The rate of transformation and the degree of crystallinity of the product were inversely related to Si/Fe molar ratio, and, with heat treatment, were also dependent on incubation temperature. Siliceous ferrihydrite samples having Si/Fe molar ratios ≥0.10 did not transform to phases having greater crystallinity during incubation at either room temperature in buffered solutions at pH ≥7 for as long as 10 months or at pH 12.5 at 91°C for 36 hr. The XRD peak at 2.97 Å did not shift significantly during incubation procedures, providing evidence that the structure of the high-Si ferrihydrite was not significantly altered.