Oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) measurements have been widely used to assess the results of injection of nano zerovalent iron (nZVI) for groundwater remediation, but the significance of these measurements has never been established. Using rotating disk electrodes (RDE) in suspensions of nZVI, we found the electrode response to be highly complex but also a very sensitive probe for a range of fundamentally significant processes. The time dependence of the electrode response reflects both a primary effect (attachment of nZVI onto the electrode surface) and several secondary effects (esp., oxidation of iron and variations in dissolved H2 concentration). At nZVI concentrations above ∼200 mg/L, attachment of nZVI to the electrode is sufficient to give it the electrochemical characteristics of an Fe0 electrode, making the electrode relatively insensitive to changes in solution chemistry. Lower nZVI concentrations give a proportional response in ORP, but much of this effect is mediated by the secondary effects noted above. Coating the nZVI with natural organic matter (NOM), or the organic polymers used to make stabile suspensions of nZVI, moderates its effect on ORP measurments. Our results provide the basis for interpretating ORP measurements used to characterize the results of injecting nZVI into groundwater.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry