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Background

Biogeochemical processes in the modern sediments and soils are governed by the properties of mineral phases. Among them, sub-micron sized, particularly nanomineral solids are common and widely distributed components that comprise over 90 % of the potentially reactive surfaces in nature (Banfield and Barker, 2001; Hochella 2002; Hochella et al., 2008). These particles, in the size range of 1 to 100 nanometers, of either abiotic or biotic origin, display unique structural, chemical and surface properties (Banfield and Barker, 2001; Wigginton et al., 2007). During the last decade a number of studies have shown that nanominerals are very important solids in governing the transport, deposition and the fate of the organic and inorganic compounds in nature (Banfield and Barker, 2001; Hochella et al., 2008; Theng and Yuan, 2008). The reactivity of nanominerals in nature is based on the processes of their formation, dissolution, and phase transformation (Nowack and Bucheli 2007), binding of organic and inorganic compounds at their surfaces (Banfield and Barker, 2001) catalytic activity of their surfaces in modifying properties of chemical compounds (Hochella, 2002), mutual interaction with other inorganic and organic particulates and bacteria (Hochella et al., 2008), and on their role in biomineralization processes (Sondi and Salopek-Sondi, 2005; Sondi et al., 2008).

Although the presence of the mineral nanoparticles and nanominerals in sediments and soils is well-documented, their role as the most reactive entities in biogeochemical processes in natural systems remains the subject of many recent investigations (Villalobos et al., 2005; Ben-Moshe et al., 2013.). Nanomineral phases in sediments and soils are usually poorly crystalline and their identification and characterization is still a challenge. The roles that nanomineral particles play in formation of sediments and soils and in geochemical processes in nature are still poorly understood. Recently, with the development of novel methods and techniques based on nanoscience, it is possible to conduct the research that would determine the structural, chemical and surface properties of naturally occurring nanomineral phases in different sediment and soil environments. Furthermore, their role in global biogeochemical cycles should be better determined.

References:

Banfield, J.F., Barker, W.W. (2001) Nanoparticles and the environment. Rev. Mineral. Geochem. 44, Mineral. Soc. Am. Washington, D.C., 349 p.

Ben-Moshe, T., Frenk, S., Dror, I., Minz, D.,Berkowitz, B. (2013) Effects of metal oxide nanoparticles on soil properties. Chemosphere 90, 640-646.

Hochella, M.F. (2002) There’s plenty of room at the bottom. Nanoscience in geochemistry. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 66, 735-743.

Hochella, M.F., Lower, S.K., Maurice P.A., Penn, R.L., Sahai, N., Sparks, D.L. Twining, B.S. (2008) Nanominerals, mineral nanoparticles and earth systems. Science 319, 1631-1635.

Nowack, B., Bucheli T.D. (2007) Occurrence, behaviour and effects on nanoparticles in the environment. Environmental Pollution 150, 5-22.

Sondi, I., Salopek-Sondi, B. (2005) The influence of the primary structures of urease enzyme on the formation of CaCO3 polymorphs: A comparison of plant (Canavlia ensiformis) and bacterial (Bacillus pasteurii) ureases. Langmuir 21, 8876-8882.

Sondi, I., Škapin, S.D., Salopek-Sondi, B. (2008) Biomimetic precipitation of nanostructured colloidal calcite particles by enzyme-catalyzed reaction in the presence of magnesium ions.
Cryst. Growth Des. 8, 435-441.

Villalobos, M., Nargar, J., Sposito, G. (2005) Trace metal retention on biogenic manganese oxide nanoparticles. Elements 1, 223-226.

Wigginton, N.S., Haus, K.L., Hochella, M.F. (2007) Aquatic environmental nanoparticles. J. Environ. Monit. 9 1306-1316.

Theng, B.K.G.,Yuan, G. (2008) Nanoparticles in the soil environment. Elements 4, 395-399.

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