Intrinsic surface acidity constants (Kal
intr) and surface complexation constant for adsorption of orthosilicate onto synthetic ferrihydrite (Ksi for the complex ≡FeOSi(OH)3) have been determined from acid/base titrations in 0.001-0.1 M NaClO4 electrolytes and silicate adsorption experiments in 0.01 M NaNOi electrolyte (pH 3-6). The surface equilibrium constants were calculated according to the two-layer model by Dzombak ' Morel (1990). Near equilibrium between protons/hydroxyls in solution and the ferrihydrite surface was obtained within minutes while equilibration with silicate required days-weeks, both reactions probably being diffusion controlled. Applying the values for specific surface area and site densities for ferrihydrite used by Dzombak ' Morel (1990) (600 m2 g–1, 3.4 μmole m–2) the constants pKal
intr = 6.93 ± 0.12, pKa2
intr = 8.72 ± 0.17 and log Ksi = 3.62 were calculated by using the FITEQL optimization routine. Use of the specific surface area actually measured (269 m2 g-1) gave a poorer fit of the experimental data. Due to the slow adsorption of silicate and hence long shaking times, changes in the surface characteristics of the ferrihydrite seem to take place, probably a decrease in the concentration of surface sites. Adsorption isotherms calculated using the derived equilibrium constants showed that approximately twice the amount of silicate was adsorbed at pH 5 compared with pH 3.
Infrared spectroscopy of silica adsorbed to ferrihydrite showed Si-O stretching absorption maxima in the range 940-960 cm-1. The shift of the absorption maximum to higher wavenumbers with increasing amount of silicate adsorbed is probably due to an increase in the frequency of Si-O-Si bonds between orthosilicate adsorbed at adjacent sites. Small amounts of goethite were identified in the adsorption products.