v16n4 From the Editors

Elements magazine has published many topical issues for which the focus has been on an individual element (see graphic). Some elements were featured as a group, such as the platinum group elements (v4n4) or the rare earth elements (v8n5). Others were featured as allotropes, as happened for carbon as diamond (v1n2) or carbon as graphite (v10n6). Yet others were featured in the context of an overview of the many roles that an element plays in natural systems. The current issue, “Lithium: Less is More” (v16n4), falls under this latter category.

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v16n3 From the Editors

When we started finalizing this issue for publication the prospect of a pandemic seemed very distant. In the intervening three months, COVID-19 has come to dominate everything: our conversations, news broadcasts, our working patterns, and our social lives. For many, this has been a tragic time, and we extend our condolences to all those readers of Elements who have lost loved ones and colleagues to COVID-19. For scholars, this is an uncertain time, as universities and research organizations take stock of the impact of the pandemic on their activities, and their financial well-being. The dramatic drop in student mobility across the world is already starting to take a toll on university income and may yet pose an existential threat. On a brighter note, it is hard to overlook the benefits of having cleaner air, happier wildlife, and lower global emissions due to our traveling less.

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A Symphony of Electrons

The concept of oxidation as the process that turns iron metal into rust is familiar to all of us. We might be equally familiar with reduction, the “reverse” of oxidation, by which iron metal is produced by heating iron ore with coke in a blast furnace. Rusting and smelting of iron are just two examples of reduction–oxidation (“redox”) reactions. As one species (e.g., the iron ore) becomes reduced, so the other (e.g., the coke) becomes oxidised. In redox, there is always something being oxidised and something else being reduced; it’s the yin and the yang of geochemistry, as the guest editors of this issue of Elements refer to it (cover).

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v16n2 From the Editors

Light interacts with matter in different ways. It can be absorbed, transmitted, reflected, or scattered. Scientists can measure those light–matter interactions to reveal incredible details about the structure and reactivity of matter. When it comes to scattered light, it is likely you are most familiar with Rayleigh scattering, in which light is elastically scattered by small molecules and the wavelength (or color) doesn’t change. It is the reason behind the blue color of the sky. Maybe less familiar is the small amount of light (typically 0.0000001%) that is scattered at different wavelengths. This inelastic scattering of light, or Raman effect, is due to the incident light interacting with the chemical structure (bonding) within the matter. The Raman effect may be small (only about 1 part in 10 million), but it is mighty. Discover why by reading the articles in this issue of Elements.

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v15n6 From the Editors

The copy of Elements you are holding in your hands (or reading online) is the result of the creativity and expertise of our 18 participating socities, authors, editors, reviewers, graphic designers, business and administrative staff, print and shipping vendors, and advertisers. Every issue represents hundreds of hours of effort by many individuals working together for a common goal … to deliver Elements to you, the reader. Elements is a joint endeavour. Each year, in our final issue, we take a moment to extend our appreciation to those that brought Elements to life. This year is no different.

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Carbon — Beautiful, Essential, Deadly

The unique physical chemistry of carbon confers an extraordinary ability to form molecules that are variously beautiful (think diamond), essential (think living cells), and toxic (think greenhouse gas). Nowhere is this split personality more evident than in the enigmatic igneous clan of kimberlites, the topic for this issue of Elements. No one who has set eyes on a cut diamond, especially the delicate pink stones from soon-to-close Argyle Mine in Western Australia (see photo to the right), can fail to be awestruck at Nature’s capacity for beauty. Kimberlite magmas that bring diamonds to the surface are carbon-fuelled, whether by methane through a complex series of redox melting reactions (see Foley et al. 2019 this issue p. 393), or by carbon dioxide exsolving from kimberlite melt at sub-crustal depths and propelling it explosively to the surface (see Russell et al. 2019 this issue p. 405). We have yet to witness a kimberlite erupt – the last known eruption, in Tanzania, was ten thousand years ago – but we can be fairly sure that the greenhouse gas delivery of a single kimberlite pipe in full flow was pretty substantial. For kimberlites, carbon is both passenger and propellant.

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