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Prof. Owen Duckworth, NC State University

Form follows function: Understanding biomolecule and biomineral roles in metal cycling

Microbial products, including biogenic exudates and minerals, have a major impact on the fate, transport and bioavailability of metals in soils, sediments, and water. Microbial production of these of these agents allow for control over their structure and, potentially, their environmental reactivity. A major goal of our work is thus to develop relationships between the structure and reactivity of biogenic minerals and chelating agents that are released into the environment. We utilize spectroscopic, microscopic, computational, and scattering techniques to understand the structural details of minerals and metals-ligand complexes. This talk will focus on the structure, sorption, and redox reactivity of bacteriogenic iron oxide (BIOS), which are poorly ordered iron hydroxides that are similar to ferrihydrite. These biogenic minerals, as well as associated biomass, cause a unique tapestry of reactivities that may be similar to or quite different than synthetic oxides. The results may have implications for the retention of trace metals at redox gradients, including wetland rhizospheres and sites of groundwater discharge.

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