Reduction of hexavalent chromium by ferrous iron: A process of chromium isotope fractionation and its relevance to natural environments

L. N. Døssing, K. Dideriksen, S. L.S. Stipp, R. Frei

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Stable chromium (Cr) isotopes can be used as a tracer for changing redox conditions in modern marine systems and in the geological record. We have investigated isotope fractionation during reduction of Cr(VI)aq by Fe(II)aq. Reduction of Cr(VI)aq by Fe(II)aq in batch experiments leads to significant removal of lighter Cr isotopes from solution. Assuming Rayleigh distillation, the fractionation factor α=0.9964 agrees with published results for Cr(VI) reduction by magnetite. In experiments designed to mimic natural aqueous systems, Fe(II)aq was added at constant rate at pH 6.8 and 8.1. Cr isotope composition of solids and solution displays Rayleigh distillation with α=0.9985. Chemical composition, electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and Cr isotope composition agree with a model where Cr(VI)aq reduction occurs through two mechanisms: (a) homogeneous Cr(VI)aq reduction leads to the formation of unstable Cr(VI)-bearing green rust and results in Cr isotope fractionation of a magnitude similar to that observed during reduction by Fe(II)aq in our batch experiments, (b) intercalated Cr(VI) is reduced by the Fe(II) in the green rust, resulting in negligible isotope fractionation. The original Cr isotope composition of the reacted Cr(VI)aq is preserved if >90% of Cr(VI)aq is reduced by Fe(II)aq, which supports previous observations that under pH conditions relevant to surface seawater, Cr isotopes in Fe-rich chemical precipitates can provide important information for the interpretation of the paleo-redox state of the seawater from which the sediments precipitated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Banded iron formation
  • Chromium
  • Iron
  • Isotope fractionation
  • Thermal ionization mass spectrometer

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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