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Effects of Sulfide Concentration and Dissolved Organic Matter Characteristics on the Structure of Nanocolloidal Metacinnabar

Poulin, Brett A., Gerbig, Chase A., Kim, Christopher S., Stegemeier, John P., Ryan, Joseph N., Aiken, George R.
Environmental Science & Technology 2017 v.51 no.22 pp. 13133-13142
X-ray absorption spectroscopy, absorbance, bioavailability, environmental science, mercury, methylmercury compounds, organic matter, solubility, sulfides
Understanding the speciation of divalent mercury (Hg(II)) in aquatic systems containing dissolved organic matter (DOM) and sulfide is necessary to predict the conversion of Hg(II) to bioavailable methylmercury. We used X-ray absorption spectroscopy to characterize the structural order of mercury in Hg(II)–DOM–sulfide systems for a range of sulfide concentration (1–100 μM), DOM aromaticity (specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA₂₅₄)), and Hg(II)–DOM and Hg(II)–DOM–sulfide equilibration times (4–142 h). In all systems, Hg(II) was present as structurally disordered nanocolloidal metacinnabar (β-HgS). β-HgS nanocolloids were significantly smaller or less ordered at lower sulfide concentration, as indicated by under-coordination of Hg(II) in β-HgS. The size or structural order of β-HgS nanocolloids increased with increasing sulfide abundance and decreased with increasing SUVA₂₅₄ of the DOM. The Hg(II)–DOM or Hg(II)–DOM–sulfide equilibration times did not significantly influence the extent of structural order in nanocolloidal β-HgS. Geochemical factors that control the structural order of nanocolloidal β-HgS, which are expected to influence nanocolloid surface reactivity and solubility, should be considered in the context of mercury bioavailability.