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Project Overview

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    Project Introduction
    Acid Mine Drainage: Measuring Metal Release Rate of Arsenopyrite

    For this project experience, you’ll be exploring the chemistry surrounding the dissolution of metal sulfide miners. More specifically, you will design and conduct experiments to test the importance of a particular experimental variable (which you choose) in controlling the overall mineral release rate from a sample of arsenopyrite, FeAsS. Our goals for this project are:

    • For you to learn quantitative analysis in the context of a real-life environmental problem.
    • For you to learn how to apply the scientific method as you develop hypotheses, design your experiments, and develop your own interpretation – in short, how to be a scientist!
    • For you to understand some of the complexities and uncertainties associated with scientific measurement, especially when working with complex systems and the natural environment.
    • For you to learn how to effectively communicate your scientific results, both orally and in writing.

    You will investigate the dissolution rate of arsenopyrite under acidic conditions using a variety of analytical chemistry measurement techniques. In the early stages of the project you will use spectrophotometry to measure the concentration of dissolved iron as a function of time in solutions that contain arsenopyrite. In the latter part of the project, many of you will use the technique of inductively coupled plasma (ICP) atomic emission spectroscopy to measure arsenic and sulfur in addition to iron. Some of you may choose to use an alternative technique in an effort to better understand the chemistry of arsenopyrite dissolution. Throughout the project, you will design, test, and refine your experimental procedures so that you can obtain meaningful results from which you can learn something about the chemistry of arsenopyrite in the environment.

    Why do we care about the dissolution rate of arsenopyrite? Many naturally occurring minerals contain metals (for example, arsenic, lead or mercury) that can be toxic if released into the environment. Human activities such as mining or construction of wells for water can lead to the inadvertent release of these metals into the atmosphere or our waterways. In order to prevent potentially serious environmental consequences, it is important to understand the conditions under which these minerals dissolve and release toxic metals. As you will see in the discussion that follows, the chemistry is quite complex and in many cases not well understood.

    This page titled Project Overview is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Contributor.

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