Microbially mediated iron redox cycling of subsurface sediments from Hanford Site, Washington State, USA

Michael E. Bishop, Hailiang Dong, Paul Glasser, Brandon R. Briggs, Martin Pentrak, Joseph W. Stucki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron-bearing clay minerals are predominant in soils and sediments, and they undergo oxidation-reduction cycles as a result of natural processes such as wetting/drying cycles and plant root respiration. However, the kinetics and mechanisms of multiple redox cycles of iron in clay-rich sediments and consequences of such cycling on sediment properties are poorly understood. The objective of this study was to understand how multiple redox cycles of Fe in clay-rich sediment affect the rate and extent of Fe bioreduction and the physicochemical properties of the sediment. A natural sediment sample containing Fe-bearing montmorillonite from Hanford, Washington, USA was size-fractionated [2.0 to 0.5 μm (Hanford-C) and 0.5 to 0.02 μm (Hanford-F)] and redox-cycled for four times. Bioreduction was achieved utilizing Geobacter sulfurreducens and re-oxidization was performed with sparged air. Time-course change of total Fe (II) was monitored to measure the rate and extent of Fe (III) bioreduction. Redox-cycled sediments were characterized to determine the physicochemical changes. Both the initial rate and extent of bioreduction fluctuated across the four redox cycles, but they ultimately decreased from 5.3 μmol g−1 h−1 and 22.9% to nearly zero by the fourth cycle. These fluctuation patterns were likely due to a combined effect of reductive dissolution of small/poorly crystalline clay particles (by 3–5%) and clay mineral structural changes, as evidenced by redox induced changes of aqueous chemistry, surface area, cation exchange capacity, mineralogy, and Mössbauer parameters. Once these small/poorly crystalline clay particles were dissolved, structural Fe in residual larger and more crystalline clay particles was largely reversible across additional redox cycles, as revealed by Mössbauer spectroscopy through the first three cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119643
JournalChemical Geology
StatePublished - Jul 20 2020


  • Bioreduction
  • Cation exchange capacity
  • Hanford
  • Iron-redox cycling
  • Mineralogy
  • Mössbauer
  • Surface area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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