Bioavailable iron production in airborne mineral dust: Controls by chemical composition and solar flux

Eshani Hettiarachchi, Richard L. Reynolds, Harland L. Goldstein, Bruce Moskowitz, Gayan Rubasinghege

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A large part of oceanic biological production is limited by the scarcity of dissolved iron. Mineral dust aerosol, processed under acidic atmospheric conditions, is the primary natural source of bioavailable iron to oceanic life. However, synergistic and antagonistic effects of non-Fe-containing minerals on atmospheric processing of Fe-containing minerals and Fe solubilization are poorly understood. The current study focuses on mineralogical influences of non-Fe-bearing semiconductor minerals, such as titanium dioxide (TiO2), on the dissolution of iron in selected natural mineral dust aerosols under atmospherically relevant conditions. Further, the role of elevated Ti concentrations in dust is evaluated using magnetite, a proxy for Fe(II) containing minerals, under both dark and light conditions. Our results highlight that relatively higher Ti:Fe ratios, regardless of their total Fe content, enhances the total iron dissolution in mineral dust aerosols as well as in magnetite. Moreover, elevated Ti percentages also yield high Fe(II) fractions in mineral dust systems under dark conditions. Upon irradiation however, dissolved Fe(II) is suppressed by high Ti levels due to the involvement of photochemical redox cycling reactions with hydroxyl radicals (OH). These synergistic and antagonistic effects of Ti are further evaluated by altering the chemical composition of natural dusts with artificially added anatase (TiO2) and synthetic amorphous titania. The current study reveals important mineralogical controls by non-Fe-bearing minerals on dust iron dissolution to better understand global iron mobilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - May 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. The authors thank the Department of Chemistry, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM) is supported by the Instruments and Facilities Program of the NSF Division of Earth Science . This is IRM contribution 1803.

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Paolo D'Odorico and Abi Bhattachan for providing the Kalahari sample, to Ray Kokaly for determining mineralogy from reflectance spectroscopy, and to Gary Skipp for determining mineralogy from X-ray diffraction. This research was supported in part by the Climate and Land Use Change Program of the U.S. Geological Survey . Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The authors also thank Richard Wanty for his thorough and insightful review which greatly improved this manuscript. All the raw data measurements that we used to plot the graphs illustrated in the figures and provided in tables are in the Supplemental Material.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bioavailable iron
  • Iron dissolution
  • Mineralogy effects
  • Photochemistry
  • Redox cycling
  • Titanium dioxide


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioavailable iron production in airborne mineral dust: Controls by chemical composition and solar flux'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this