Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 309–329 | Cite as

The solubility of iron sulphides in synthetic and natural waters at ambient temperature

  • W. Davison


A critical evaluation of literature values for the solubility products, K sp NBS = [Fe2+][HS]γ Fe2+γ HS (H NBS + )−1, of various iron sulphide phases results in consensus values for the pKs of 2.95 ± 0.1 for amorphous ferrous sulphide, 3.6 ± 0.2 for mackinawite, 4.4 ± 0.1 for greigite, 5.1 ± 0.1 for pyrrhotite, 5.25 ± 0.2 for troilite and 16.4 ± 1.2 for pyrite.

Where the analogous ion activity products have been measured in anoxic freshwaters in which there is evidence for the presence of solid phase FeS, the values lie within the range of 2.6–3.22, indicating that amorphous iron sulphide is the controlling phase. The single value for a groundwater of 2.65 (2.98 considering carbonate complexation) agrees. In seawater four values range between 3.85 to 4.2, indicating that mackinawite or greigite may be the controlling phase. The single low value of 2.94 is in a situation where particularly high fluxes of Fe (II) and S (−II) may result in the preferential precipitation of amorphous iron sulphide. Formation of framboidal pyrite in these sulphidic environments may occur in micro-niches and does not appear to influence bulk concentrations. Calculations show that the formation of Fe2S2 species probably accounts for very little of the iron or sulphide in most natural waters. Previously reported stability constants for the formation of Fe (HS)2 and (Fe (HS)3) are shown to be suspect, and these species are also thought to be negligible in natural waters. In completely anoxic pore waters polysulphides also have a negligible effect on speciation, but in tidal sediments they may reach appreciable concentrations and lead to the direct formation of pyrite. Concentrations of iron and sulphide in pore waters can be controlled by the more soluble iron sulphide phase. The change in the IAP with depth within the sediment may reflect ageing of the solid phase or a greater flux of Fe (II) and S (−II) nearer the sediment surface. This possible kinetic influence on the value of IAPs has implications for their use in geochemical studies involving phase formation.

Key words

Iron sulphides natural waters anoxic basins sediments solubility 


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© Birkhäuser Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Davison
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ferry HouseInstitute of Freshwater EcologyAmblesideGB

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