The photochemical reduction of Hg(II) is an important pathway in the environmental Hg cycle because it competes with Hg methylation and potentially limits the formation of bioaccumulative methylmercury. Hg stable isotope systematics have proven to be an effective tool for investigating the transport, transformation, and bioaccumulation of Hg. The dominant cause of mass independent isotope fractionation (MIF) of Hg in nature is the photochemical reduction of various species of Hg(II). However, it is difficult to fully interpret Hg stable isotope signatures due to the lack of mechanistic information about which Hg compounds are susceptible to MIF and why. This study investigates Hg isotope fractionation during the photochemical reduction of Hg(II) complexed to organic ligands, which are representative of the available binding sites in natural dissolved organic matter. The photochemical reduction of Hg(II) in the presence of cysteine resulted in both negative and positive MIF in residual Hg(II), where the sign depended on pH and dissolved oxygen level. In the presence of serine, either nuclear volume or magnetic isotope effects were observed depending on the wavelength of light and the extent of Hg(II) complexation by serine. In the presence of ethylenediamine, MIF was negative. Our Hg stable isotope results suggest that MDF and MIF are induced at different steps in the overall photochemical reduction reaction and that MIF does not depend on the rate-determining step but instead depends on photophysical aspects of the reaction such as intersystem crossing and hyperfine coupling. The behavior of Hg isotopes reported here will allow for a better understanding of the underlying reaction mechanisms controlling the Hg isotope signatures recorded in natural samples.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry