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Publication Type:

Journal Article


GeologyGeologyGeology, Volume 44, Number 7, p.515-518 (2016)



Accession Number:



chemistry, dissolution, mass-balance, minerals, mobility, titanium, transport, zirconium, zr


Nanomineralogical studies of mineral surface coatings in soils reveal insights into biogeochemical processes that heretofore were not known to exist. This is a new dimension in understanding past and present biogeochemical processes in soils, and in this study it is a way to better understand the behavior of low-solubility-index elements such as Al, Ti, and Zr. Soils were sampled from selected sites in Sudbury (Ontario, Canada) that have been affected by acidification and particulate matter emissions from base-metal smelters with subsequent remediation within the past century. These anthropogenic processes have affected an entire landscape, but are now recorded in assemblages of nano-size phases that can be only studied using a combination of focused ion beam technology (for sample preparation) and high-resolution analytical transmission electron microscopy (for phase identification). A first generation of clay minerals (pre-acidification phase), their partial replacement by nano-size hematite and amorphous silica (anthropogenic acidification), and a second generation of clay minerals (post-acidification, including soil remediation) are products of changes in soil biogeochemical processes during these natural and anthropogenic-induced weathering stages. Complex assemblages of nanophases formed prior to the second generation of clay minerals depict underlying mechanisms for the mobilization and sequestration of the low-solubility-index elements Zr and Ti under acidic conditions. The occurrence of baddeleyite (ZrO2), anatase (TiO2), and the Magneli phases Ti4O7 and Ti5O9 (all present at the nanoscale) suggest an influx of nanocolloidal Zr and Ti oxides during weathering of smelter-derived particulate matter. Kelyshite {NaZr[Si2O6(OH)]}, authigenic zircon (ZrSiO4), and kleberite [Fe3+Ti6O11(OH)(5)] are most likely products of the sequestration of the Zr- and Ti-bearing nanocolloids.


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