Chemistry of natural organics molecules

Their Role in Geochemical Processes

Biopolymers and their weathering products occur in soluble and colloidal form, and as coatings on surfaces of minerals in terrestrial systems. These organics consist of a mixture of simple small chain organic acids and long chain organic polymers released by biota, and their weathering products. The most resistant fraction of these natural organic molecules is collectively called humic substances (HS). Pioneering research conducted by several geochemists and soil chemists has revealed that the molecular chemistry of natural organics influences global cycling of elements, mineral weathering, and the fate and transport of major and trace elements and pollutants in the environment. However, the behavior of natural organic molecules and its relationship to different geochemical processes is not well understood.

Figure 1

Our research is focused on the understanding of the molecular behavior of natural organics and its relationship to the macroscale properties and a variety of geochemical processes. Our specific projects are focused on the fundamental understanding of

  • Functional group chemistry of organics
  • Macromolecular structure of organics

in aqueous solutions and interfaces. Our group is also developing synchrotron based soft X-ray spectroscopic instrumentation to obtain functional group-specific information on these molecules under conditions that are relevant in nature. Current projects are listed on the left.