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Journal Article

Molecular Fractionation of Dissolved Organic Matter with Metal Salts


Riedel,  T.
Marine Geochemistry Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;


Dittmar,  T.
Marine Geochemistry Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Riedel, T., Biester, H., & Dittmar, T. (2012). Molecular Fractionation of Dissolved Organic Matter with Metal Salts. Environmental Science & Technology, 46(8), 4419-4426.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-C847-E
Coagulation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by hydrolyzing metals is an important environmental process with particular relevance, e.g., for the cycling of organic matter in metal-rich aquatic systems or the flocculation of organic matter in wastewater treatment plants. Often, a nonremovable fraction of DOM remains in solution even at low DOM/metal ratios. Because coagulation by metals results from interactions with functional groups, we hypothesize that noncoagulating fractions have a distinct molecular composition. To test the hypothesis, we analyzed peat-derived dissolved organic matter remaining in solution after mixing with salts of Ca, Al, and Fe using 15 T Electrospray Ionization Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (ESI-FT-ICR-MS). Addition of metals resulted in a net removal of DOM. Also a reduction of molecular diversity was observed, as the number of peaks from the ESI-FT-ICR-MS spectra decreased. At DOM/metal ratios of ∼9 Ca did not show any preference for distinct molecular fractions, while Fe and Al removed preferentially the most oxidized compounds (O/C ratio >0.4) of the peat leachate. Lowering DOM/metal ratios to ∼1 resulted in further removal of less oxidized as well as more aromatic compounds (“black carbon”). Molecular composition in the residual solution after coagulation was more saturated, less polar, and less oxidized compared to the original peat leachate and exhibited a surprising similarity with DOM of marine origin. By identifying more than 9200 molecular formulas we can show that structural properties (saturation and aromaticity) and oxygen content of individual DOM molecules play an important role in coagulation with metals. We conclude that polyvalent cations not only alter the net mobility but also the very molecular composition of DOM in aquatic environments.