Abstract

Aluminum substitution is a common phenomenon in environmental iron oxides and oxyhydroxides, affecting the color, magnetic character, surface features, etc. Several methods for preparing Al-substituted iron oxyhydroxides can be found in the literature, resulting in samples with particular properties. In the present study, the synthesis of aluminum-substituted goethites, AlxFe1−xOOH with 0 ⩽ x ⩽ 0.15, by homogeneous precipitation and the transformation to aluminum-substituted hematites, (AlxFe1−x)O3, are presented. The goethite samples were produced at 90°C from solutions of urea and iron and aluminum nitrates in the presence of ammonium sulfate (GU series). Although attempts were made to incorporate up to 33 mole% of Al into the goethite, only ~15 mole% was found to be within the structure, due to the final pH, ~7, of the synthesis. Another feature of these goethites was a lateral alignment of the tabular particles. By heating batches of the GU samples at 400°C and 800°C, two series of Al-hematites were obtained, denoted here as the HX400 and HX800 samples, respectively. X-ray diffraction, thermal analysis, Karl-Fischer titration, transmission electron microscopy, and Mössbauer spectroscopy were used to characterize the samples. The X-ray patterns showed the samples to be pure iron phases, with particle sizes of ~10 nm for the GU and HX400 samples, and of ~70 nm for the HX800 samples. An inversion in the intensities of the (104) and (110) diffraction peaks of hematite was observed to be dependent on the aluminum substitution and was explained by small particle sizes, shape anisotropy, and the presence of nanopores. The cell parameters of both GU and HX samples showed a small decrease with increasing aluminum substitution up to x ≈ 0.15. The amount of adsorbed sulfate, presumably as an aluminum hydroxy sulfate gel, increased with aluminum substitution in all GU and HX samples, reaching a maximum of ~6.5 wt.% for the highest substitution. Heating at 100°C did not remove all of the adsorbed water, and significantly higher temperatures were required to achieve complete removal. Mossbauer spectra at 295 K and 80 K are typical for small-particle goethite and hematite, and revealed that Al-for-Fe substitution in all samples seems to be limited to ~15 mol.%.

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