Surface chemistry and reactivity of bacteriogenic iron oxides from Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge, north-east Pacific Ocean


Corresponding author: F. G. Ferris. Tel.: 001 416 978 0526; fax: 001 416 978 3938; e-mail:


Iron oxides were collected from the caldera of Axial Volcano, a site of hydrothermal vent activity along the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Mineralogical inspection using X-ray diffraction (XRD) revealed the majority of samples to be 2-line ferrihydrite, with one of the samples corresponding to poorly ordered goethite. Examination using environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) found the constituents of the iron oxides to consist predominantly of bacterial-like structures that resembled the iron oxidizing bacteria Leptothrix ochracea, Gallionella ferruginea and a novel PV-1 strain. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) detected the presence of Fe, O, C, N, Ca, Si and P on all the samples with the exception of poorly ordered goethite, where Ca and P were absent, in addition to a weak N peak. Binding energy shifts of the Fe 2p and O 1s peaks were indicative of ferrihydrite and hydroxyl functional groups, while the presence and speciation of the C 1s peak was attributed to the presence of bacteria. Use of acid-base titration data modelling in conjunction with a linear programming regression method (LPM) indicated that the iron oxides are composed of heterogeneous surface functional groups. Differences in iron oxide reactivity values correlated with differences in the bacterial and mineral fabric of the samples. The diverse surface chemistry and high reactivity of these iron oxides may be important in the global cycling of various elements throughout the oceans due to their presence along widespread mid-ocean ridges.