Effects of crystallite size on the structure and magnetism of ferrihydrite

Xiaoming Wang, Mengqiang Zhu, L.K. Koopal, Wei Li, Wenqian Xu, Fan Liu, Jing Zhang, Qingsong Liu, Xionghan Feng*, D.L. Sparks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The structure and magnetic properties of nano-sized (1.6 to 4.4 nm) ferrihydrite samples are systematically investigated through a combination of X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray pair distribution function (PDF), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and magnetic analyses. The XRD, PDF and Fe K-edge XAS data of the ferrihydrite samples are all fitted well with the Michel ferrihydrite model, indicating similar local-, medium- and long-range ordered structures. PDF and XAS fitting results indicate that, with increasing crystallite size, the average coordination numbers of Fe-Fe and the unit cell parameter c increase, while Fe2 and Fe3 vacancies and the unit cell parameter a decrease. Mössbauer results indicate that the surface layer is relatively disordered, which might have been caused by the random distribution of Fe vacancies. These results support Hiemstra's surface-depletion model in terms of the location of disorder and the variations of Fe2 and Fe3 occupancies with size. Magnetic data indicate that the ferrihydrite samples show antiferromagnetism superimposed with a ferromagnetic-like moment at lower temperatures (100 K and 10 K), but ferrihydrite is paramagnetic at room temperature. In addition, both the magnetization and coercivity decrease with increasing ferrihydrite crystallite size due to strong surface effects in fine-grained ferrihydrites. Smaller ferrihydrite samples show less magnetic hyperfine splitting and a lower unblocking temperature (TB) than larger samples. The dependence of magnetic properties on grain size for nano-sized ferrihydrite provides a practical way to determine the crystallite size of ferrihydrite quantitatively in natural environments or artificial systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-202
JournalEnvironmental Science: Nano covers the benefits...
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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