Elements Covers

Posts Tagged ‘August 2017’

Tribute to Paul H. Ribbe 1935–2017

Paul Hubert Ribbe, a giant in the field of mineralogy, passed away 24 June 2017 at the age of 82. Just eight weeks earlier, he was preceded in death by Elna Ribbe, his wife of almost 59 years. Paul was born 2 April 1935 in Bristol, Connecticut (USA), to the Reverend Walter and Grace Ribbe. He obtained his BS from Wheaton College (Illinois, USA) and his MS from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA), both in geology. He was the first American Fulbright Scholar admitted to Magdalene College, University of Cambridge (UK), where he worked at the Cavendish Laboratory with the legendary crystallographer Helen Megaw. He was awarded a PhD in 1963 for his research on the crystal structure of plagioclase feldspars. Following a short post-doc (University of Chicago, USA) and an assistant professorship (University of California, Los Angeles, USA), in 1966, Paul and Elna moved to Blacksburg (Virginia, USA) where he joined the Department of Geology at Virginia Tech. Paul became part of a powerhouse of talent in mineralogy and petrology that included Donald Bloss, Gerald Gibbs, Charles Gilbert, and the late David Wones.

Read More

Borate and the Origin of RNA: A Model for the Precursors to Life

According to the RNA World hypothesis, ribonucleic acid (RNA) played a critical role in the origin of life. However, ribose, an essential component of RNA, is easily degraded: finding a way to stabilize it is critical to the viability of the hypothesis. Borate has been experimentally shown to have a strong affinity for ribose, and, thus, could have protected ribose from degradation in the formose reaction, a potential process for prebiotic ribose formation. Accumulation of borate on Hadean Earth (prior to ~4,000 Ma) might have been a key step in the chemical evolution of the biotic sugar. Proto-arcs are suggested as a geological setting sufficiently rich in borate to stabilize ribose during the Hadean.

Read More

Tripping the Light Fantastic: Organoboron Compounds

Small molecules containing boron can play all sorts of roles in chemistry, biology and materials science. Molecular boron compounds display a wide range of unusual and fascinating structures, and their chemical reactivity can be very different from that of boron’s next-door neighbour carbon. Some of the reasons for this will be considered and illustrated through applications in energy, medicine and new materials. The boron dipyrrins, also known as BODIPYs, are a prime example. They are strongly fluorescent when excited by illumination and are widely used as fluorescent tags in biology and as biosensors. More recently, they have been studied for their energy transfer properties in light-harvesting applications.

Read More

Origin and Distribution of Evaporite Borates: The Primary Economic Sources of Boron

Naturally occurring borates are the major economic source of boron. Borates were first used over 4,000 years ago in precious-metal working and are now essential components of modern industry. Although borates have been exploited from other sources, three minerals from non-marine evaporites now form the major commercial sources of borate – borax, colemanite and ulexite. These major commercial deposits are associated with Neogene volcanism in tectonically active extensional regions at plate boundaries. The most important continental borate provinces are located in the USA, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and China, with the largest borate reserves in the world being found in western Anatolia (Turkey).

Read More

Boron Isotopes: A “Paleo-pH Meter” for Tracking Ancient Atmospheric CO2

The boron isotope composition of calcium carbonate shells of marine organisms has the unique potential to record surface ocean pH, allowing the calculation of atmospheric pCO2 due to the established relationship between pH and the partial pressure of (atmospheric) CO2 (pCO2). This “paleo-pH meter” allows scientists to produce a record of the natural fluctuations of atmospheric pCO2 over geologic time, which will help us better understand the impacts of the recent anthropogenic addition of CO2 to Earth’s atmosphere. Towards this end, a tremendous effort to understand the systematics of boron uptake in marine carbonates is underway. Here, we review the potential of boron isotopes to constrain ocean pH and, thus, atmospheric pCO2.

Read More

Boron Cycling in Subduction Zones

Subduction zones are geologically dramatic features, with much of the drama being driven by the movement of water. The “light and lively” nature of boron, coupled with its wide variations in isotopic composition shown by the different geo-players in this drama, make it an ideal tracer for the role and movement of water during subduction. The utility of boron ranges from monitoring how the fluids that are expelled from the accretionary prism influence seawater chemistry, to the subduction of crustal material deep into the mantle and its later recycling in ocean island basalts.

Read More

Boron Behavior During the Evolution of the Early Solar System: The First 180 Million Years

The behavior of boron during the early evolution of the Solar System provides the foundation for how boron reservoirs become established in terrestrial planets. The abundance of boron in the Sun is depleted relative to adjacent light elements, a result of thermal nuclear reactions that destroy boron atoms. Extant boron was primarily generated by spallation reactions. In the initial materials condensing from the solar nebula, boron was predominantly incorporated into plagioclase. Boron abundances in the terrestrial planets exhibit variability, as illustrated by B/Be. During planetary formation and differentiation, boron is redistributed by fluids at low temperature and during crystallization of magma oceans at high temperature.

Read More

About v13n4 – One in a Million; 2016 Impact Factor = 4.0

Due to its impact on global climate, carbon is the element that currently dominates the public debate. Why publish an issue on boron when the public is focusing on carbon? As you read the articles in this issue, what you will find is that boron is a “quintessential” terrestrial element. Although rare in the Solar System, Earth’s tectonic and weathering processes have concentrated boron within the Earth’s upper continental crust, where we are completely dependent on it for everyday life.

Read More

Return from the “Dark Side”

In 2004, I assumed an administrative role in my university, thus joining what is commonly referred to as the “Dark Side” of academia. I have only just returned to my position as a faculty member. Some pursue administration as a career path and expect to move up the academic ladder, progressing from department head, to dean, to provost, and, perhaps, even to president. Others, like myself, view administration as an intriguing experiment: I certainly didn’t anticipate staying away from a faculty role for so long (almost 13 years). Like many faculty, I had little experience with organizational leadership when I joined the Dark Side. I was like a Padawan apprentice (another reference from Star Wars) aspiring to be a Jedi and greatly in need of master Yoda’s training.

Read More

Boron: From Cosmic Scarcity to 300 Minerals

Boron is rare in the cosmos because its nucleus is “fragile.” So, how does one get from the interstellar medium, where boron was first produced, to Earth’s upper continental crust where boron is concentrated in deposits containing remarkably diverse suites of boron minerals? Processes that led to the formation of continental crust also concentrated boron, which is preferentially incorporated into melts and aqueous fluids. Deposits with high boron-mineral diversity include granitic pegmatites, peralkaline intrusions, boron-enriched skarns, and evaporite deposits. Despite the loss of boron minerals from the geologic record due to their ready solubility in water and breakdown at low temperatures, the increase in boron-mineral diversity with time is real, and is accelerated during supercontinent assembly.

Read More