Elements Covers

Posts Tagged ‘free article’

Tracking Diverse Minerals, Hungry Organisms, and Dangerous Contaminants Using Reactive Transport Models

Beneath our feet is a fascinating world of flowing water, cosmopolitan microbes, and complex mineral assemblages. Yet we see none of it from above. Our quest to investigate these complex subsurface interactions has led to the development of reactive transport models. These are computer algorithms that allow us to explore, in a virtual way, the natural dynamics of Earth’s systems and our anthropogenic impact on those systems. Here, we explain the concepts behind reactive transport models—which include the transport of aqueous species and the descriptions of biogeochemical reactions involving solutes, surfaces and microorganisms—and introduce to reactive transport applications in terrestrial and marine environments.

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Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits: Metal Resources and Windows into Earth Processes

Deep-ocean mineral deposits could make a significant contribution to future raw material supply. Growing metal demand and geopolitics are focussing increasing attention on their resource potential and economic importance. However, accurate assessment of the total amounts of metal and its recoverability are very difficult. Deep-ocean mineral deposits also provide valuable windows through which to study the Earth, including the evolution of seawater and insights into the exchange of heat and chemicals between the crust and the oceans. Exploration for, and potential extraction of, deep-ocean mineral deposits poses many geological, technical, environmental and economic challenges, as well as regulatory and philosophical questions. Great uncertainty exists, and the development and stewardship of these deposits requires an incremental approach, encouraging transparency and scientific and civil societal input to balance the interests of all.

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The Rosetta Mission and the Chemistry of Organic Species in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Comets are regarded as probably the most primitive of solar system objects, preserving a record of the materials from which the solar system aggregated. Key amongst their components are organic compounds – molecules that may trace their heritage to the interstellar medium from which the protosolar nebula eventually emerged. The most recent cometary space mission, Rosetta, carried instruments designed to characterize, in unprecedented detail, the organic species in comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P). Rosetta was the first mission to match orbits with a comet and follow its evolution over time, and also the first mission to land scientific instruments on a comet surface. Results from the mission revealed a greater variety of molecules than previously identified and indicated that 67P contained both primitive and processed organic entities.

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Responsible Sourcing of Critical Metals

Most critical raw materials, such as the rare-earth elements (REEs), are starting products in long manufacturing supply chains. Unlike most consumers, geoscientists can become involved in responsible sourcing, including best environmental and social practices, because geology is related to environmental impact factors such as energy requirements, resource efficiency, radioactivity and the amount of rock mined. The energy and material inputs and the emissions and waste from mining and processing can be quantified, and studies for REEs show little difference between ‘hard rocks’, such as carbonatites, and easily leachable ion-adsorption clays. The reason is the similarity in the embodied energy in the chemicals used for leaching, dissolution and separation.

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Chalcophile Elements and Sulfides in the Upper Mantle

Sulfides are among the most important petrogenetic agents in magmatic systems. They are ubiquitous in most upper-mantle rock types, common as inclusions in diamonds and they host significant amounts of geochemically and economically important chalcophile (‘sulfur-loving’) elements, such as Cu, Ni, Pb, In, Au and the platinum-group elements. Despite their low abundance (<< 1% of the bulk rock), residual sulfides have a disproportionate control over the chalcophile element budget in upper mantle lithologies, as well as that of melts derived from the Earth’s mantle.

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Mineralogy of Sulfides

Metal sulfides are the most important group of ore minerals. Here, we review what is known about their compositions, crystal structures, phase relations and parageneses. Much less is known about their surface chemistry, their biogeochemistry, or the formation and behaviour of ‘nanoparticle’ sulfides, whether formed abiotically or biogenically.

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