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Fractionation of Cu and Zn isotopes during adsorption onto amorphous Fe(III) oxyhydroxide: Experimental mixing of acid rock drainage and ambient river water

January 1, 2008

Fractionation of Cu and Zn isotopes during adsorption onto amorphous ferric oxyhydroxide is examined in experimental mixtures of metal-rich acid rock drainage and relatively pure river water and during batch adsorption experiments using synthetic ferrihydrite. A diverse set of Cu- and Zn-bearing solutions was examined, including natural waters, complex synthetic acid rock drainage, and simple NaNO3 electrolyte. Metal adsorption data are combined with isotopic measurements of dissolved Cu (65Cu/63Cu) and Zn (66Zn/64Zn) in each of the experiments. Fractionation of Cu and Zn isotopes occurs during adsorption of the metal onto amorphous ferric oxyhydroxide. The adsorption data are modeled successfully using the diffuse double layer model in PHREEQC. The isotopic data are best described by a closed system, equilibrium exchange model. The fractionation factors (αsoln–solid) are 0.99927 ± 0.00008 for Cu and 0.99948 ± 0.00004 for Zn or, alternately, the separation factors (Δsoln–solid) are −0.73 ± 0.08‰ for Cu and −0.52 ± 0.04‰ for Zn. These factors indicate that the heavier isotope preferentially adsorbs onto the oxyhydroxide surface, which is consistent with shorter metal–oxygen bonds and lower coordination number for the metal at the surface relative to the aqueous ion. Fractionation of Cu isotopes also is greater than that for Zn isotopes. Limited isotopic data for adsorption of Cu, Fe(II), and Zn onto amorphous ferric oxyhydroxide suggest that isotopic fractionation is related to the intrinsic equilibrium constants that define aqueous metal interactions with oxyhydroxide surface sites. Greater isotopic fractionation occurs with stronger metal binding by the oxyhydroxide with Cu > Zn > Fe(II).