The solubility of ferric ion in marine mineral aerosol solutions at ambient relative humidities

Xiaorong Zhu, Joseph M. Prospero, Frank J. Millero, Dennis L. Savoie, Garrett W. Brass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


The solubility of ferric ion from Fe2O3, FeO(OH) and Fe(OH)3 in hygroscopic marine aerosol solutions was estimated from free energies at the pHs and ionic strengths that are characteristic of ambient trade wind aerosol particles collected at Barbados, West Indies, under conditions when significant concentrations of Saharan dust were present. The chemical composition of these mineral-containing particles was based on measurements made with cascade impactor samples with the assumptions that the particles in a given size fraction were internally mixed and that the NO3- and nonsea-salt (nss) SO42- in the particles were initially in the form of HNO3 and H2SO4. At typical local relative humidities (RH) above 80%, the pH of the aerosol solution could be lower than 1.0 and the ionic strength could be higher than 3.0 even when part of the acid has been neutralized by NH3 and CaCO3. The concentration of ferric ion increases by three orders of magnitude for each unit decrease in pH. By considering changes in speciation and ionic strength, the ferric ion solubilities at pHs of 2, 5 and 8 are estimated to be, respectively, 6.67 × 10-5 mol kg-1, 5.53 × 10-14 mol kg-1, 3.17 × 10-15 mol kg-1 from Fe2O3, 1.10 × 10-4 mol kg-4, 8.68 × 10-14 mol kg-1, 5.04 × 10-15 mol kg-1 from FeO(OH) and 1.55 × 101 mol kg-1, 1.12 × 10-8 mol kg-1, 6.61 × 10-10 mol kg-1 from Fe(OH)3. The ferric ion solubilities in aerosol solutions are far higher than those normally expected for seawater, fresh water and even rain water in which the pHs are usually higher. Thus aerosol solution processes may be a major factor affecting the fraction of iron that will readily dissolve when the atmospheric mineral particles enter the ocean. These same aerosol solution processes may explain the unusually large solubilities that have been observed for other aerosol metals in aqueous solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-107
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Chemistry
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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