Effects of surface-bound Fe2+ on nitrate reduction and transformation of iron oxide(s) in zero-valent iron systems at near-neutral pH

Tian C. Zhang, Yong H. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Nitrate reduction in an iron/nitrate/water system with or without an organic buffer was investigated using multiple batch reactors under strict anoxic conditions. Nitrate reduction was very limited (<10%) at near-neutral pH in the absence of the organic buffer. However, nitrate reduction was greatly enhanced if the system: (1) had a low initial pH (∼2-3); (2) was primed with adequate aqueous Fe2+; or (3) was in the presence of the organic buffer. In Cases (1) and (3), nitrate reduction usually was involved in three stages. The first stage was quick, and H+ ions directly participated in the corrosion of iron grains. The second stage was very slow due to the formation of amorphous oxides on the surface of iron grains, while the third stage was characterized by a rapid nitrate reduction concurrent with the disappearance of aqueous Fe2+. Results indicate that reduction of nitrate by Fe2+ will form magnetite; Fe2+ (aq.) can accelerate reduction of nitrate and will be substoichiometrically consumed. Once nitrate is exhausted in the system, no more Fe2+ will be consumed. In the presence of nitrate, Fe2+ (aq) will be adsorbed onto the surface of iron grains or iron oxides; the surface-complexed Fe(II) (extracted by acetate with pH=4.1) might be oxidized and become structural Fe(III), resulting in a steadily increasing ratio of Fe(III)/Fe(II) in the oxides formed. The transformation of nonstoichiometric amorphous iron oxides into crystalline magnetite, a nonpassive oxide, triggers the rapid nitrate removal thereafter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Ground-water pollution
  • Iron
  • Nitrates
  • Reactors
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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