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Coprecipitation of Arsenate with Metal Oxides:  Nature, Mineralogy, and Reactivity of Aluminum Precipitates

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journal contribution
posted on 15.08.2006, 00:00 by Antonio Violante, Mariarosaria Ricciardella, Stefania Del Gaudio, Massimo Pigna
Arsenic mobilization in soils is mainly controlled by sorption/desorption processes, but arsenic also may be coprecipitated with aluminum and/or iron in natural environments. Although coprecipitation of arsenic with aluminum and iron oxides is an effective treatment process for arsenic removal from drinking water, the nature and reactivity of aluminum− or iron−arsenic coprecipitates has received little attention. We studied the mineralogy, chemical composition, and surface properties of aluminum−arsenate coprecipitates, as well as the sorption of phosphate on and the loss of arsenate from these precipitates. Aluminum−arsenate coprecipitates were synthesized at pH 4.0, 7.0, or 10.0 and As/Al molar ratio (R) of 0, 0.01, or 0.1 and were aged 30 or 210 d at 50 °C. In the absence of arsenate, gibbsite (pH 4.0 or 7.0) and bayerite (pH 10.0) formed, whereas in the presence of arsenate, very poorly crystalline precipitates formed. Short-range ordered materials (mainly poorly crystalline boehmite) formed at pH 4.0 (R = 0.01 and 0.1), 7.0, and 10.0 (R = 0.1) and did not transform into Al(OH)3 polymorphs even after prolonged aging. The surface properties and chemical composition of the aluminum precipitates were affected by the initial pH, R, and aging. Chemical dissolution of the samples by 6 mol L-1 HCl and 0.2 mol L-1 oxalic acid/oxalate solution indicated that arsenate was present mainly in the short-range ordered precipitates. The sorption of phosphate onto the precipitates was influenced by the nature of the samples and the amounts of arsenate present in the precipitates. Large amounts of phosphate partially replaced arsenate only from the samples formed at R = 0.1. The quantities of arsenate desorbed from these coprecipitates by phosphate increased with increasing phosphate concentration, reaction time, and precipitate age but were always less than 30% of the amounts of arsenate present in the materials and were particularly low (<4%) from the sample prepared at pH 4.0. Arsenate appeared to be occluded within the network of short-range ordered materials and/or sorbed onto the external surfaces of the precipitates, but sorption on the external surfaces seemed to increase by increasing pH of sample preparation and aging. Furthermore, at pH 4.0 more than in neutral or alkaline systems the formation of aluminum arsenate precipitates seemed to be favored. Finally, we have observed that greater amounts of phosphate were sorbed on an aluminum−arsenate coprecipitate than on a preformed aluminum oxide equilibrated with arsenate under the same conditions (R = 0.1, pH 7.0). In contrast, the opposite occurred for arsenate desorption, which was attributed to the larger amounts of arsenate occluded in the coprecipitate.