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Mechanistic Investigation of Dimethylmercury Formation Mediated by a Sulfide Mineral Surface...

Publication Type
Journal Name
The Journal of Physical Chemistry A
Publication Date
Page Numbers
5397 to 5405

Mercury (Hg) pollution is a global environmental problem. The abiotic formation of dimethylmercury (DMeHg) from monomethylmercury (MMeHg) may account for a large portion of DMeHg in oceans. Previous experimental work has shown that abiotic formation of DMeHg from MMeHg can be facilitated by reduced sulfur groups on sulfide mineral surfaces. In that work, a mechanism was proposed in which neighboring MMeHg moieties bound to sulfide sites on a mineral surface react through an SN2-type mechanism to form DMeHg and incorporate the remaining Hg atoms into the mineral surface. Here, we perform density functional theory calculations to explore the mechanisms of DMeHg formation on the 110 surface of a CdS(s) (hawleyite) nanoparticle. We show that coordination of MMeHg substituents to adjacent reduced sulfur groups protruding from the surface indeed facilitates DMeHg formation and that the reaction proceeds through direct transmethylation from one MMeHg substituent to another. Coordination of Hg by multiple S atoms provides a transition-state stabilization and activates a C–Hg bond for methyl transfer. In addition, solvation effects play an important role in the surface reconstruction of the nanoparticle and in decreasing the energetic barrier for DMeHg formation relative to the corresponding reaction in vacuo.