Nanoscale heterogeneity of arsenic and selenium species in coal fly ash particles: analysis using enhanced spectroscopic imaging and speciation techniques†
Coal combustion byproducts are known to be enriched in arsenic (As) and selenium (Se). This enrichment is a concern during the handling, disposal, and reuse of the ash as both elements can be harmful to wildlife and humans if mobilized into water and soils. The leaching potential and bioaccessibility of As and Se in coal fly ash depends on the chemical forms of these elements and their association with the large variety of particles that comprise coal fly ash. The overall goal of this research was to determine nanoscale and microscale solid phase mineral associations and oxidation states of As and Se in fly ash. We utilized nanoscale 2D imaging (30–50 nm spot size) with the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) in combination with microprobe X-ray capabilities (∼5 μm resolution) to determine the As and Se elemental associations. Speciation of As and Se was also measured at the nano- to microscale with X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The enhanced resolution of HXN showed As and Se as either diffusely located around or comingled with Ca- and Fe-rich particles. The results also showed nanoparticles of Se attached to the surface of fly ash grains. Overall, a comparison of As and Se species across scales highlights the heterogeneity and complexity of chemical associations for these trace elements of concern in coal fly ash.