Biotic vs. Abiotic Structured Mackinawite


  • Resulting from living things. 
  • Requires and environment conducive for microbial life.
  • Example – Sulfate Reducing Microorganisms  (SRM) produce sulfur, and when in the presence of iron, may react to form FeS.


  • Resulting from physical or chemical factors rather than biological (not derived from living organisms) .
  • Example – a FeS reagent that is manufactured or formulated to a specification in a chemical reactor and delivered to a remediation site.

Biotic and Abiotic Formation - Similarities

The first iron sulfide formed biotically is a reactive ferrous sulfide (FeS) mineral with a “mackinawite” structure. This is also the main ingredient in FerroBlack®.

  • Both biotic- and abiotic-formed iron sulfides are generally effective in:
    •  Promoting reductive de-chlorination.
    • Lowering hexavalent chromium concentrations.  
    • Binding with individual metal cations (especially those in the “2+” valence state).
  • Pyrite does not form in biotic systems in well controlled anoxic systems after several months and is not present in abiotic suspensions such as FerroBlack®

Biotic and Abiotic Formation - Differences

  • Biotic FeS is formed in-situ; abiotic FeS (mackinawite) is synthetically manufactured and delivered to the site.
  • As biotic FeS is formed, any phosphate present (which is a required nutrient for biotic microorganisms) will complex with soluble iron and form an insoluble mineral (vivanite) and not be available to form FeS.
  • Biotic respiration produces “extra-cellular materials” which are “sticky” leading to larger aggregated particle-sized mackinawite which may potentially change aquifer flow characteristics.
  • Transformation from mackinawite (FeS) to greigite (Fe3S4) is generally accelerated in biotic systems compared to abiotic FeS.
  • Abiotic FeS (FerroBlack®) is appropriate for multi-metal contamination, however the biotic capabilities for multi-metals treatment are less understood.
  • Abiotic (FerroBlack®) can be manufactured stoichiometrically balanced; with excess Fe; or with excess S.
  • In a biotic system, environmental professionals must create and maintain an environment viable for living microorganism colony in a dynamic chemical and physical ecosystem.

Why “roll the dice” by assuming the in-situ conditions will be optimal for biotic FeS Formation?

Simply, Redox Solutions abiotically synthesized Mackinawite structured iron sulfide products eliminate the unknown factors of biotic iron sulfide formation.