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Keywords:

  • Adsorption;
  • Contaminant removal;
  • Interaction;
  • Reduction mechanism;
  • Zerovalent metal

Abstract

Metallic iron (Fe0) is often reported as a reducing agent for environmental remediation. There is still controversy as to whether Fe0 plays any significant direct role in the process of contaminant reductive transformation. The view that Fe0 is mostly a generator of reducing agents (e.g. H, H2 and FeII) and Fe oxyhydroxides has been either severely refuted or just tolerated. The tolerance is based on the simplification that, without Fe0, no secondary reducing agents could be available. Accordingly, Fe0 serves as the original source of electron donors (including H, H2 and FeII). The objective of this communication is to refute the named simplification and establish that quantitative reduction results from secondary reducing agents. For this purpose, reports on aqueous contaminant removal by Al0, Fe0 and Zn0 are comparatively discussed. Results indicated that reduction may be quantitative in aqueous systems containing Fe0 and Zn0 while no significant reduction is observed in Al0/H2O systems. Given that Al0 is a stronger reducing agent than Fe0 and Zn0, it is concluded that contaminant reduction in Fe0/H2O systems results from synergic interactions between H/H2 and FeII within porous Fe oxyhydroxides. This conclusion corroborates the operating mode of Fe0 bimetallics as H/H2 producing systems for indirect contaminant reduction.