Characterization and properties of metallic iron nanoparticles: Spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and kinetics

James T. Nurmi, Paul G. Tratnyek, Vaishnavi Sarathy, Donald R. Baer, James E. Amonette, Klaus Pecher, Chongmin Wang, John C. Linehan, Dean W. Matson, R. Lee Penn, Michelle D. Driessen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

872 Scopus citations


There are reports that nano-sized zero-valent iron (Fe0) exhibits greater reactivity than micro-sized particles of Fe0, and it has been suggested that the higher reactivity of nano-Fe0 may impart advantages for groundwater remediation or other environmental applications. However, most of these reports are preliminary in that they leave a host of potentially significant (and often challenging) material or process variables either uncontrolled or unresolved. In an effort to better understand the reactivity of nano-Fe0, we have used a variety of complementary techniques to characterize two widely studied nano-Fe0 preparations: one synthesized by reduction of goethite with heat and H2 (Fe H2) and the other by reductive precipitation with borohydride (FeBH). FeH2 is a two-phase material consisting of 40 nm α-Fe0 (made up of crystals approximately the size of the particles) and Fe3O4 particles of similar size or larger containing reduced sulfur; whereas FeBH is mostly 20-80 nm metallic Fe particles (aggregates of <1.5 nm grains) with an oxide shell/coating that is high in oxidized boron. The FeBH particles further aggregate into chains. Both materials exhibit corrosion potentials that are more negative than nano-sized Fe2O3, Fe3O4, micro-sized Fe0, or a solid Fe0 disk, which is consistent with their rapid reduction of oxygen, benzoquinone, and carbon tetrachloride. Benzoquinone - which presumably probes inner-sphere surface reactions - reacts more rapidly with FeBH than FeH2, whereas carbon tetrachloride reacts at similar rates with FeBH and FeH2, presumably by outer-sphere electron transfer. Both types of nano-Fe0 react more rapidly than microsized Fe0 based on mass-normalized rate constants, but surface area-normalized rate constants do not show a significant nano-size effect. The distribution of products from reduction of carbon tetrachloride is more favorable with FeH2, which produces less chloroform than reaction with FeBH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1221-1230
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization and properties of metallic iron nanoparticles: Spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and kinetics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this