Fate of organic compounds during transformation of ferrihydrite in iron formations

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The absence of organic compounds from Precambrian iron formations (IF) challenges the hypothesis of the biogenic origin of IF. Here we address the fate of adsorbed organic compounds during transformation from ferrihydrite to hematite. We determined the binding energy between hematite and common molecular terminations found in extracellular polymeric substances and biofilms: carboxylic, hydroxyl and phosphate functional groups. We found that the bond between hematite and hydroxyl groups is approximately 2 times stronger than the bond between hematite-carboxyl and -phosphate groups. We transformed synthetic ferrihydrite to hematite at 90 ºC in presence of glycerol, which has a high density of hydroxyl groups and measured the amount of mineral associated glycerol before and after the transformation. We show that the transformation releases glycerol highlighting that organic compounds adsorbed at precursor ferrihydrite could be desorbed already during the process of IF sedimentation and diagenesis. Our results suggest that the absence of organic compounds in IF should not be used as evidence against their biogenic origin.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeochemical Perspectives Letters
Pages (from-to)25-29
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020

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