Methods for characterizing the fate and effects of nano zerovalent iron during groundwater remediation

Zhenqing Shi, Dimin Fan, Richard L. Johnson, Paul G. Tratnyek, James T. Nurmi, Yuxin Wu, Kenneth H. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The emplacement of nano zerovalent iron (nZVI) for groundwater remediation is usually monitored by common measurements such as pH, total iron content, and oxidation–reduction potential (ORP) by potentiometry. However, the interpretation of such measurements can be misleading because of the complex interactions between the target materials (e.g., suspensions of highly reactive and variably aggregated nanoparticles) and aquifer materials (sediments and groundwater), and multiple complications related to sampling and detection methods. This paper reviews current practice for both direct and indirect characterizations of nZVI during groundwater remediation and explores prospects for improving these methods and/or refining the interpretation of these measurements. To support our recommendations, results are presented based on laboratory batch and column studies of nZVI detection using chemical, electrochemical, and geophysical methods. Chemical redox probes appear to be a promising new method for specifically detecting nZVI, based on laboratory tests. The potentiometric and voltammetric detections of iron nanoparticles, using traditional stationary disc electrodes, rotating disc electrodes, and flow-through cell disc electrodes, provide insight for interpreting ORP measurements, which are affected by solution chemistry conditions and the interactions between iron nanoparticles and the electrode surface. The geophysical methods used for characterizing ZVI during groundwater remediation are reviewed and its application for nZVI detection is assessed with results of laboratory column experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of contaminant hydrology
StatePublished - Oct 2015


  • Characterization
  • Effects
  • Fate
  • Groundwater
  • Remediation
  • Zerovalent iron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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