Air pollution–aerosol interactions produce more bioavailable iron for ocean ecosystems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Weijun Li
  • Liang Xu
  • Xiaohuan Liu
  • Jianchao Zhang
  • Yangting Lin
  • Xiaohong Yao
  • Huiwang Gao
  • Daizhou Zhang
  • Jianmin Chen
  • Wenxing Wang
  • Xiaoye Zhang
  • Longyi Shao
  • Pingqing Fu
  • Athanasios Nenes

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Shandong University
  • Ocean University of China
  • Institute of Geology and Geophysics Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Prefectural University of Kumamoto
  • Fudan University
  • Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences
  • King Abdulaziz University
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • University of Mining and Technology
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas
  • National Observatory of Athens


It has long been hypothesized that acids formed from anthropogenic pollutants and natural emissions dissolve iron (Fe) in airborne particles, enhancing the supply of bioavailable Fe to the oceans. However, field observations have yet to provide indisputable evidence to confirm this hypothesis. Single-particle chemical analysis for hundreds of individual atmospheric particles collected over the East China Sea shows that Fe-rich particles from coal combustion and steel industries were coated with thick layers of sulfate after 1 to 2 days of atmospheric residence. The Fe in aged particles was present as a “hotspot” of (insoluble) iron oxides and throughout the acidic sulfate coating in the form of (soluble) Fe sulfate, which increases with degree of aging (thickness of coating). This provides the “smoking gun” for acid iron dissolution, because iron sulfate was not detected in the freshly emitted particles and there is no other source or mechanism of iron sulfate formation in the atmosphere.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1601749
Number of pages7
JournalScience Advances
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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