Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) attracted researchers’ interest for its toxicity, natural availability and removal difficulty. Nevertheless, its sorption mechanism is not clearly understood yet. In this work, we elucidated the sorption mechanism of the co-precipitation of chromates with ferrihydrite through quantitative analysis. The influence of Cr/Fe molar ratio on sorption was investigated by zeta potential measurements, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray adsorption fine-structure analysis (XAFS). Coprecipitation at pH 5 showed almost twice the sorption density of adsorption at pH 5. In co-precipitation, a shift of the XRD peak due to inner-sphere sorption of chromate was observed at Cr/Fe molar ratio 0.5. For adsorption, the same peak shift was confirmed at Cr/Fe molar ratio of 1. Zeta potential at pH 5 suggested that the sorption mechanism changed at Cr/Fe molar ratio 0.25 for coprecipitation and at Cr/Fe molar ratio of 1 for adsorption. Fitting of Cr and Fe K-edge extended X-ray adsorption fine-structure suggested that ferrihydrite immobilized Cr(VI) via outer sphere surface complexation for lower Cr/Fe ratios and via inner-sphere surface complexation for higher molar ratios. At higher molar ratios, bidentate binuclear Cr[sbnd]Fe bonds were well established, thus resulting in the expansion of the ferrihydrite structure.
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