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The Aqueous Chemistry of Oxides$
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Bruce C. Bunker and William H. Casey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199384259

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199384259.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 June 2021

The Impact of Oxides on Environmental Chemistry

The Impact of Oxides on Environmental Chemistry

18 The Impact of Oxides on Environmental Chemistry
The Aqueous Chemistry of Oxides

Bruce C. Bunker

William H. Casey

Oxford University Press

The ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles defined our environments using the four basic elements of fire, earth, wind, and water. Although we now know there are at least 118 elements, of which 98 are naturally occurring, these ancient descriptions aptly describe the habitats on Earth that are occupied by oxides and living things. Many oxides that comprise Earth’s surface are born by the fire represented by the massive heat of Earth’s interior as mediated by plate tectonics. This heat produces the igneous rocks found in volcanoes and our major mountain chains. Water weathers these pristine rocks, which are gradually broken down to form earth, which includes the wide diversity of other rock types, soils, and sediments covering the surfaces of our continents and ocean floors. Weathered oxides in the form of dust are blown by wind and enter the atmosphere, where they influence the chemistry of the air we breathe and the rainfall that supports continental life. The chemical transformations of oxides are strongly influenced by all the environmental conditions they encounter in their life cycle (see Chapter 17). Conversely, the interactions between oxides, water, and organisms help define many of the environments that allow life on Earth to thrive. These interactions form the basis for this final chapter of our book. Oxides are present in all our planet’s major environments. In this chapter, we explore each of the environments defined by the ancient Greeks in descending order based on their distance from Earth’s core. The chapter progresses from the stratosphere (air) to continental surfaces (earth) to our oceans (water) and finally to the subsurface environments of subduction zones such as the Marianas Trench (fire). In each section, we highlight reactions involving the two most important classes of oxides in terms of their environmental impact, both of which are weathering products: (1) the clay minerals and (2) the redox-active colloids of iron and manganese oxides. Clay mineral reactions impact colloidal interactions (Chapter 8), ion exchange (Chapter 10), and the sequestration of environmental nutrients and contaminants. Reactions of the redox-active oxidates of iron and manganese are dominant in terms of reversible and often complex electrochemical (Chapter 11) and photochemical (Chapter 13) processes that take place in natural environments.

Keywords:   acid rain, cloud seeding, free radicals, humus, lava flows, megavolcanos, peroxides, reductive dissolution, slab graveyard, troposphere

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