We have measured U(VI) adsorption on hematite using EXAFS spectroscopy and electrophoresis under conditions relevant to surface waters and aquifers (0.01 to 10 μM dissolved uranium concentrations, in equilibrium with air, pH 4.5 to 8.5). Both techniques suggest the existence of anionic U(VI)-carbonato ternary complexes. Fits to EXAFS spectra indicate that U(VI) is simultaneously coordinated to surface FeO6 octahedra and carbonate (or bicarbonate) ligands in bidentate fashions, leading to the conclusion that the ternary complexes have an inner-sphere metal bridging (hematite-U(VI)-carbonato) structure. Greater than or equal to 50% of adsorbed U(VI) was comprised of monomeric hematite-U(VI)-carbonato ternary complexes, even at pH 4.5. Multimeric U(VI) species were observed at pH ≥ 6.5 and aqueous U(VI) concentrations approximately an order of magnitude more dilute than the solubility of crystalline β-UO2(OH)2. Based on structural constraints, these complexes were interpreted as dimeric hematite-U(VI)-carbonato ternary complexes. These results suggest that Fe-oxide-U(VI)-carbonato complexes are likely to be important transport-limiting species in oxic aquifers throughout a wide range of pH values.
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Characterization of U(VI)-carbonato ternary complexes on hematite: EXAFS and electrophoretic mobility measurements