Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Michelle M. Scherer


Iron is ubiquitous in the environment, ranking fourth in abundance in the earth's crust. Iron is responsible for many environmental mechanisms including the distribution of plant nutrients and pollutants. Iron can exist in several minerals, including iron oxides. Arsenic is a naturally occurring metalloid which has been confirmed by the EPA as a carcinogen. Recently, an arsenic epidemic has unfurled in Bangladesh, poisoning an estimated 70 million people. Arsenic contamination does not exist only in the third world, but also in the United States, including Iowa. Due to the widespread distribution of arsenic and the potential for it to be leached into groundwater supplies, there has been a growing interest in establishing removal mechanisms.

Atomic absorption (AA) spectroscopy and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) have been used. There has been a shift in arsenic analysis methods with the advent of more sensitive methods such as the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). The geology department recently acquired a Thermo Scientific XSERIES ICP-MS, so an arsenic analysis method was developed in preparation for the research conducted in this study. The ICP-MS, however, only measures total arsenic concentration. As this study focused on the oxidation state of arsenic, an alternative means for determining oxidation state was developed. As(V)-selective cartridges were used to adsorb arsenate, while letting arsenite run through. This method was checked for effectiveness and used to determine aqueous arsenic oxidation state. X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) was used to determine the oxidation state of arsenic adsorbed onto the surface of iron oxide.

Goethite (α-FeOOH) and magnetite (Fe3O4) are both known to strongly adsorb arsenic. In this work, the potential for As(III) oxidation and As(V) reduction by goethite was studied. As documented by Amstaetter et al., there was some evidence for adsorbed As(III) oxidation by an Fe(II)/goethite system. This study, however, also showed some evidence for oxidation of adsorbed arsenite in the presence of goethite alone. As(V) reduction by magnetite was also studied. Magnetite is capable of having different stoichiometries, or ratios of Fe(II) to Fe(III). Both an oxidized, x=0.27, and a near-stoichiometric, x=0.49, magnetite were studied for their ability to reduce arsenate. There was no evidence for As(V) reduction in the aqueous or adsorbed phase for either system.


Arsenic, ICP-MS, Iron, Redox


xi, 79 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 69-75).


Copyright 2010 Angela Meagan Brown