Green rust is a generic name for various green crystalline chemical compounds containing iron(II) and iron(III) cations, the hydroxide (HO−
) anion, and another anion such as carbonate (CO2−
3), chloride (Cl−
), or sulfate (SO2−
4), in a layered double hydroxide structure. The most studied varieties are
- carbonate green rust - GR(CO2−
)12]2+ · [CO2−
- chloride green rust - GR(Cl−
)8]+ · [Cl−
- sulfate green rust - GR(SO2−
)12]2+ · [SO2−
The crystal structure of green rust can be understood as the result of inserting the foreign anions and water molecules between brucite-like layers of iron(II) hydroxide, Fe(OH)2. The latter has an hexagonal structure, with layer sequence AcBAcB... , where A and B are planes of hydroxide ions, and c those of Fe2+
(iron(II), ferrous) cations. In the green rust, some Fe2+
cations get oxidized to Fe3+
(iron(III), ferric). Each triple layer AcB, which is electrically neutral in the hydroxide, becomes positively charged. The anions then intercalate between those triple layers and restore neutrality.
There are two basic structures of green rust, "type 1" and "type 2". Type 1 is exemplified by the chloride and carbonate varieties. It has a rhombohedral cystal structure similar to that of pyroaurite. The layers are stacked in the sequence AcBiBaCjCbAkA ...; where A, B, and C represent HO−
planes, a, b, and c are layers of mixed Fe2+
cations, and i, j, and k are layers of the intercalated anions and water molecules. The c crystallographic parameter is 22.5-22.8 Å for the carbonate, and about 24 Å for the chloride.
Oxidation of the carbonate variety can be retarded by wetting the material with hydroxyl-containing compounds such as glicerol or glucose, even though they do not penetrate the structure. Some variety of green rust is stabilized also by an atmosphere with high CO
2 partial pressure.
Sulfate green rust has been shown to reduce nitrate NO−
3 and nitrite NO−
2 in solution to ammonium NH+
4, with concurrent oxidation of Fe2+
. Depending on the cations in the solution, the nitrate anions replaced the sulfate in the intercalation layer, before the reduction. It was conjectured that gren rust may be formed in the reducing alcaline conditions below the surface of marine sediments, and may be connected to the disappearance of oxidized species like nitrate in that environment.
Iron and steel corrosion
Green rust compounds were identified in green corrosion crusts that form on iron and steel surfaces, in alternating aerobic and anaerobic conditions, by water containing anions such as chloride, sulfate, carbonate, or bicarbonate. They are believed to be intermediates in the oxidative corrosion of iron to form iron(III) oxyhydroxides (ordinary brown rust). The green rust may be formed either directly from metallic iron or from iron(II) hydroxide Fe(OH)2 and.
On the basis of Mössbauer spectroscopic analysis, green rust minerals are suspected to occur as minerals in certain bluish-green soils that are formed in alternating redox conditions, and turn ochre once exposed to air. The green rust has been conjectured to be present in the forn of the mineral fougerite.
Biologically mediated formation
Hexagonal cystals of green rust (carbonate and/or sulfate) have also been obtained as a byproducts of bioreduction of ferric oxyhydroxides by dissimilatory iron-reducing bacteria, such as Shewanella putrefaciens, that couple the reduction of Fe3+
with the oxidation of organic matter. This process has been conjectured to occur in soil solutions and aquifers.
In one experiment, a 160 mM suspension of orange lepidocrocite γ-FeOOH in a solution containing formate (HCO−
2), incubated for 3 days with a culture of S. putrefaciens, turned dark green due to the conversion of the hydroxide to GR(CO2−
3), in the form of hexagonal platelets with diameter ~7 µm. In this process, the formate was oxidized to bicarbonate HCO−
3 which provided the carbonate anions for the formation of the green rust. The live bacteria were shown to be necessary for the formation of the green rust.
Air oxidation methods
Green rust compounds can be synthesized at ordinary ambient temperature and pressure, from solutions containing iron(II) cations, hydroxide anions, and the appropriate intercalatory anions, such as chloride, sulfate, or carbonate.
The result is a suspension of ferrous hydroxide Fe(OH)2 in a solution of the third anion. This suspension is oxidized by stirring in air, or bubbling air through it. Since the product is very prone to oxidation, it is necessary to monitor the process and exclude oxygen once the desired ratio of Fe2+
One method first combines an iron(II) salt with sodium hydroxide NaOH to form the ferrous hydroxide suspension. Then the sodium salt of the third anion is added, and the suspension is oxidized by stirring in air.
For example, carbonate green rust can be prepared by mixing solutions of iron(II) sulfate FeSO
4 and sodium hydroxide; then adding sufficient amount of sodium carbonate Na
3 solution, followed by the air oxidation step.
A more direct method combines a solution of iron(II) sulfate FeSO
4 with NaOH, and proceeding to the oxidizing step. The suspension must have a slight excess of FeSO
4 (in the ratio of 0.5833 Fe2+
for each HO−
) for the green rust to form; however, too much of it will produce instead an insoluble basic iron sulfate, iron(II) sulfate hydroxide Fe
2O. The production of green rust is reduced as temperature increases.
Stoichometric Fe(II) - Fe(III) methods
In a more recent variant, solutions of both iron(II) and iron(III) salts are first mixed, then a solution of NaOH is added, all in the stoichometric proportions of the desired green rust. No oxidation step is then necessary.
Carbonate green rust films have also been obtained from the electrochemical oxidation of iron plates.
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