Coal fly ash as a source of iron in atmospheric dust

Haihan Chen, Alexander Laskin, Jonas Baltrusaitis, Christopher A. Gorski, Michelle M. Scherer, Vicki H. Grassian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic coal fly ash (FA) aerosol may represent a significant source of bioavailable iron in the open ocean. Few measurements have been made that compare the solubility of atmospheric iron from anthropogenic aerosols and other sources. We report here an investigation of iron dissolution for three FA samples in acidic aqueous solutions and compare the solubilities with that of Arizona test dust (AZTD), a reference material for mineral dust. The effects of pH, simulated cloud processing, and solar radiation on iron solubility have been explored. Similar to previously reported results on mineral dust, iron in aluminosilicate phases provides the predominant component of dissolved iron. Iron solubility of FA is substantially higher than of the crystalline minerals comprising AZTD. Simulated atmospheric processing elevates iron solubility due to significant changes in the morphology of aluminosilicate glass, a dominant material in FA particles. Iron is continuously released into the aqueous solution as FA particles break up into smaller fragments. These results suggest that the assessment of dissolved atmospheric iron deposition fluxes and their effect on the biogeochemistry at the ocean surface should be constrained by the source, environmental pH, iron speciation, and solar radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2112-2120
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 21 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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