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J Contam Hydrol. 2002 Mar;55(1-2):87-111.

An in situ study of the role of surface films on granular iron in the permeable iron wall technology.

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Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


Permeable walls of granular iron are a new technology developed for the treatment of groundwater contaminated with dissolved chlorinated solvents. Degradation ofthe chlorinated solvents involves a charge transfer process in which they are reductively dechlorinated, and the iron is oxidized. The iron used in the walls is an impure commercial material that is covered with a passive layer of Fe2O3, formed as a result of a high-temperature oxidation process used in the production of iron. Understanding the behaviour of this layer upon contact with solution is important, because Fe2O3 inhibits mechanisms involved in contaminant reduction, including electron transfer and catalytic hydrogenation. Using a glass column specially designed to allow for in situ Raman spectroscopic and open circuit potential measurements, the passive layer of Fe2O3 was observed to be largely removed from the commercial product, Connelly iron, upon contact with Millipore water and with a solution of Millipore water containing 1.5 mg/l trichloroethylene (TCE). It has been previously shown that Fe2O3 is removed from iron surfaces upon contact with solution by an autoreduction reaction; however, prior to this work, the reaction has not been shown to occur on the impure commercial iron products used in permeable granular iron walls. The rate of removal was sufficiently rapid such that the initial presence of Fe2O3 at the iron surface would have no consequence with respect to the performance of an in situ wall. Subsequent to the removal of Fe2O3 layer, magnetite and green rust formed at the iron surface as a result of corrosion in both the Millipore water and the solution containing TCE. The formation of these two species, rather than higher valency iron oxides and oxyhydroxides, is significant for the technology. The former can interfere with contaminant degradation because they inhibit electron transfer and catalytic hydrogenation. Magnetite and green rust, in contrast, will not inhibit the mechanisms involved in contaminant reduction, and hence their formation is beneficial to the long-term performance of the iron material.

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