Arsenic and sulfur nanoparticle synthesis mimicking environmental conditions of submarine shallow-water hydrothermal vents

Michael Maas , Vicente Durán-Toro , Kurosch Rezwan , Solveig I. Bühring


Received December 29, 2020,Revised , Accepted April 14, 2021, Available online May 06, 2021

Volume 34,2022,Pages 301-312

Arsenic and sulfur mineralization is a natural phenomenon occurring in hydrothermal systems where parameters like temperature and organic matter (OM) can influence the mobilization of the toxic metalloid in marine environments. In the present study we analyze the influence of temperature and OM (particularly sulfur-containing additives) on As and S precipitation based on the recent discovery of As-rich nanoparticles in the hydrothermal system near the coast of the Greek island Milos. To this end, we experimentally recreate the formation of amorphous colloidal particles rich in As and S via acidification (pH 3–4) of aqueous precursors at various temperatures. At higher temperatures, we observe the formation of monodisperse particles within the first 24 h of the experiment, generating colloidal particles with diameters close to 160 nm. The S:As ratio and particle size of the synthetized particles closely correlates with values for AsxSy particles detected in the hydrothermal system off Milos. Furthermore, organic sulfur containing additives (cysteine and glutathione, GSH) are a key factor in the process of nucleation and growth of amorphous colloidal AsxSy particles and, together with the temperature gradient present in shallow hydrothermal vents, dictate the stabilization of As-bearing nanomaterials in the environment. Based on these findings, we present a simple model that summarizes our new insights into the formation and mobility of colloidal As in aquatic ecosystems. In this context, amorphous AsxSy particles can present harmful effects to micro- and macro-biota not foreseen in bulk As material.

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