We present new results on the conversion of pure, undoped synthetic ferrihydrite, wet-annealed at pH 6.56 and 90°C without stabilizing ligands, to nanophase goethite, hematite, and an intermediate magnetic phase, nanophase maghemite. Our analyses included magnetic field and temperature-dependent properties and characterization by powder X-ray diffraction, Mössbauer spectra, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. We sampled alteration products after 0.5 hr, and then in a geometric progression to 32 hr, yielding a detailed examination of the earliest alteration phases. There are many similarities to the latest studies of pure ferrihydrite alteration but with a significant difference: We observe early appearance of oriented nanophase goethite along with a soft magnetic contribution, while rhombohedral hematite crystals form later, as reported in previous studies. Our observations attest to the non-uniqueness of the magnetic enhancement process and to its strong dependence on environmental conditions, with important implications for use of the hematite/goethite ratio as a paleoprecipitation proxy.
- ferrimagnetic ferrihydrite
- magnetic enhancement