Arsenic speciation in sulfidic waters: Consolidation of contradictory spectroscopic and chromatographic evidence

Arsenic speciation in sulfidic waters: Consolidation of contradictory spectroscopic and chromatographic evidence

Planer‐Friedrich, B.; Suess, E.; Scheinost, A. C.; Wallschläger, D.

In recent years, analytical methods have been developed that have demonstrated that soluble arsenic‐sulfur species constitute a major fraction of dissolved arsenic in sulfidic waters. However, an intense debate is going on about the exact chemical nature of these compounds, since X‐ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) data generated at higher (mmol/L) concentrations suggest the presence of (oxy)thioarsenites in such waters, while ion chromatographic (IC) and mass spectroscopic data at lower (μmol/L to nmol/L) concentrations indicate the presence of (oxy)thioarsenates. In this contribution, we connect and explain these two apparently different types of results. We show by XAS that thioarsenites are the primary reaction products of arsenite and sulfide in geochemical model experiments in the complete absence of oxygen. However, thioarsenites are extremely instable towards oxidation, and convert rapidly into thioarsenates when exposed to atmospheric oxygen, e.g. while waiting for analysis on the chromatographic autosampler. This problem can only be eliminated when the entire chromatographic process is conducted inside a glove box. We also show that thioarsenites are instable towards sample dilution, which is commonly employed prior to chromatographic analysis when ultra‐sensitive detectors like ICP‐MS are used. This instability has two main reasons: if pH changes during dilution, then equilibria between individual arsenic‐sulfur species rearrange rapidly due to their different stability regions within the pH range, and if pH is kept constant during dilution, then this changes the ratio between OH‐ and SH‐ in solution, which in turn shifts the underlying speciation equilibria. This problem is avoided by analyzing samples undiluted. Our studies show that thioarsenites appear as thioarsenates in IC analyses if oxygen is not excluded completely, and as arsenite if samples are diluted in alkaline anoxic medium. This also points out that thioarsenites are necessary intermediates in the formation of thioarsenates.

Keywords: arsenic; XAFS; IC-ICP-MS; speciation

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Publ.-Id: 14544