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Title: Nanomineralogy as a new dimension in understanding elusive geochemical processes in soils: The case of low-solubility-index elements

Nanomineralogy is a new dimension in understanding chemical processes in soils. These processes are revealed at the nanoscale within the structures and compositions of phases that heretofore were not even known to exist in the soils in which they are found. The discovery and understanding of soil chemistry in this way is best accessible via a combination of focused ion beam technology (for sample preparation) and high resolution, analytical transmission electron microscopy (for phase identification). We have used this scientific framework and these techniques to decipher past and present chemical processes in a soil in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada that has been impacted by both smelter contamination (acidification) and subsequent remediation within the past century. In this study, we use these methods to investigate mobilization and sequestration of the relatively immobile elements Al, Ti and Zr. In a micrometer-thick alteration layer on an albite grain, a first generation of clay minerals represents weathering of the underlying mineral prior to the acidification of the soils. Complex assemblages of Ti- and Zr-bearing nanophases occur on the surfaces of Fe-(hydr)oxide crystals and are the result of the dissolution of silicates and oxides and the mobilization of Ti- and Zr-bearing colloids under acidic conditions. Thesemore » phases include anatase (TiO2), kleberite (Fe3+Ti6O11(OH)5) Ti4O7, baddelyite (ZrO2), a structural analogue to kelyshite (NaZr[Si2O6(OH)]) and authigenic zircon (ZrSiO4). Subsequent remediation of the acidic soils has resulted in the sequestration of Al and in the neoformation of the clay minerals kaolinite, smectite and illite. These complex mineral assemblages form a porous layer that controls the interaction of the underlying mineral with the environment.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Geology, 44(7):515-518
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
Nanomineralogy; chemical processes in soils; low solubility; index elements; colloids