Iron(III) oxide-hydroxide

Iron(III) oxide-hydroxide or ferric oxyhydroxide is the chemical compound of iron, oxygen, and hydrogen with formula FeO(OH).

The compound is often encountered as one of its hydrates, FeO(OH)·nH2O [rust]. The monohydrate FeO(OH)·H2O is often referred to as iron(III) hydroxide Fe(OH)3, hydrated iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, or Pigment Yellow 42.

Anhydrous ferric hydroxide occurs in the nature as the exceedingly rare mineral bernalite, Fe(OH)3·nH2O (n = 0.0-0.25). Iron oxyhydroxides, FeOOH, are much more common and occur naturally as structurally different minerals (polymorphs) denoted by the Greek letters a, b, g and d.

Goethite and lepidocrocite, both crystallizing in orthorhombic system, are the most common forms of iron(III) oxyhydroxide and the most important mineral carriers of iron in soils.

Iron(III) oxyhydroxide is the main component of other minerals and mineraloids:

The color of iron(III) oxyhydroxide ranges from yellow through dark-brown to black, depending on the degree of hydration, particle size and shape, and crystal structure.

The crystal structure of b-FeOOH (akaganeite) is that of hollandite or BaMn8O16. The unit cell is tetragonal with a=1.048 and c=0.3023 nm, and contains eight formula units of FeOOH. Its dimensions are about 500 × 50 × 50 nm. Twinning often produces particles with the shape of hexagonal stars.

On heating, b-FeOOH decomposes and recrystallizes as a-Fe2O3 (hematite).

Limonite, a mixture of various hydrates and polymorphs of ferric oxyhydroxide, is one of the three major iron ores, having been used since at least 2500 BC.

Yellow iron oxide, or Pigment Yellow 42, is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for use in cosmetics and is used in some tattoo inks.

Iron oxide-hydroxide is also used in aquarium water treatment as a phosphate binder.

Iron oxide-hydroxide nanoparticles have been studied as possible adsorbents for lead removal from aquatic media.

Iron polymaltose is used in treatment of iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron(III) oxyhydroxide precipitates from solutions of iron(III) salts at pH between 6.5 and 8.
Thus the oxyhydroxide can be obtained in the lab by reacting an iron(III) salt, such as ferric chloride or ferric nitrate, with sodium hydroxide:

In fact, when dissolved in water, pure FeCl3 will hydrolyze to some extent, yielding the oxyhydroxide and making the solution acidic:

Therefore, the compound can also be obtained by the decomposition of acidic solutions of iron(III) chloride held near the boiling point for days or weeks:

(The same process applied to iron(III) nitrate Fe(NO3)3 or perchlorate Fe(ClO4)3 solutions yields instead particles of a-Fe2O3.)

Another similar route is the decomposition of iron(III) nitrate dissolved in stearic acid at about 120 °C.

The oxyhydroxide prepared from ferric chloride is usually the b polymorph (akaganeite), often in the form of thin needles.

The oxyhydroxide can also be produced by a solid-state transformation from iron(II) chloride tetrahydrate FeCl2·4H2O.

The compound also readily forms when iron(II) hydroxide is exposed to air:

The iron(II) hydroxide can also be oxidized by hydrogen peroxide in the presence of an acid: